As Big Band fans will guess, this CD is the follow-up to the critically acclaimed "Fletcher Henderson's Unrecorded Arrangements for Benny Goodman"
, released three years ago by Arbors Records. Bob and the Tuxedo band are back again in the Goodman bag, but this time they present a widely varied set of arrangements dug out of the massive Goodman Archive at Yale University.
The charts on this CD range chronologically from "Song of the Plow" (1934, arranged by Alex Hill and probably used by Benny on his legendary "Let's Dance" broadcasts) to "Royal Garden Blues" (1976, arranged by the venerable Gordon Jenkins), and stylistically they cover all points in between. The opening number, "Tuxedo Stomp", is an original by Bob Wilber and is the only non-Goodman tune on the CD.
Overall, the band's sound is not quite as even as it was on "Fletcher Henderson's Unrecorded Arrangements", the reason probably being the variety of material, both in style and difficulty, that is presented here. The band also lacks a truly outstanding brass soloist, although Jean-Francois Bonnel on tenor saxophone makes up the void. However, there are no slack spots in the quality of the arrangements, which feature contributions (in addition to the ones listed above) by Jimmy Mundy, Benny Carter, Joe Lipman, Spud Murphy, Ralph Burns, Buck Clayton, Mary Lou Williams, and Oliver Nelson.
Among the standouts are Edgar Sampson's "Some of These Days", Oliver Nelson's haunting 1962 composition "Ballad For Benny" (which was probably never played, since Goodman tossed his newly-commissioned book just before embarking on a tour of the Soviet Union, infuriating younger members of the band), Mary Lou Williams' boppish "Conversation", Ralph Burns' "The Thrill Is Gone" (another likely-discarded chart from the 1962 Soviet Union tour) and Mel Powell's semi-classical "Clarinetta".
As before, Wilbur does a mind-boggling job of channeling Benny Goodman's clarinet work throughout this CD. Being a veteran of Goodman's big bands as well as one of the world's leading swing players, he is probably the right man for the job. A commendation must be made for the band as well, functioning under Wilbur's guidance in a way that not only pays homage to the era, but does a very faithful job of preserving the style and phrasing of the original bands that played these charts. One only has to listen to some of the many lackluster recordings by "ghost" big bands to realize what a difficult task this is.
Get this great CD, marvel at the music contained within, and think for a moment how much greater Benny Goodman's records would have been with 21st century recording technology and the opportunity to always record his best arrangements.