Benny Goodman (b. 1909 Chicago, d. 1986 New York) was born into a large, poor, Russian-Jewish family in Chicago. His remarkable skills as a musician and band-leader earned him the title "King of Swing" and left an indelible mark on American music.
Goodman was such an accomplished clarinetist at 14 years old that he dropped out of school in order to play full-time. At 16, he joined Ben Pollack's band (also featured here on drums). His fame increased as a major proponent of the "Chicagoan" style of jazz. The Young Benny Goodman 1928 - 1931 collects his first recordings as leader plus several soloist roles from the same period, still only 18 or 19. At this time, 1929, he migrated to New York City and met immediate success as a freelance musician.
The Young Benny Goodman 1928 - 1931 is highly recommended listening, the type of "natural jazz" which is difficult to play but easily enjoyed by all. This is a document of great historic value. Of particular interest to big band jazz fans are songs by Benny Goodman's Boys with Jim and Glenn. Who the heck are Jim and Glenn? None other than Jimmy McPartland and Glenn Miller! Surround yourself with greatness, as they say. You'll also hear parts played by Gene Krupa, Bunny Berigan, Tommy Dorsey, Bud Freeman, and many more hallowed names.
These sessions obviously predate his best-loved chart-toppers with Jack Teagarden, Billy Holiday, Red Nichols, Fats Waller, and in his own name; but they're nonetheless superb examples of hot jazz. So what if they were recorded over 70 years ago? Great jazz is timeless! It's exciting to hear for yourself the sensational early talent that would earn Benny Goodman a place in history.
His undeniable talents, hard work, and fortuitous cultural events propelled Goodman to the forefront of a new youth movement. The youth, as it turned out during the Great Depression, were the only people with the spare time, energy, and money to support such a movement. Goodman booked his bands in numerous NYC dance halls, performed weekly on NBC's "Let's Dance" radio show which canvassed the whole country, and arranged a nation-wide tour ending at the Palomar Ballroom in California. Many historians regard the frenzy that broke out that August 1935 night as the Swing Era's official beginning. Afterwards, he moved his band back to Chicago for a long engagement, continued his radio and film appearances, and then back to NYC's Pennsylvania Hotel. He was one of the highest profile, if not first, band leaders to integrate black musicians into his bands, and effectively balanced the tightly rehearsed and improvisational aspects of America's music. And to think he still had half a century to go.
Timeless Records was begun in 1975 to improve the availability of American jazz in Europe. It has since evolved into one of the truly great clearing houses for historic recordings. Each release features the highest quality audio reproduction, archival images, and educational liner notes. You no longer have to join a crazed collector club to hear what they're hearing. How ironic, that American jazz fans can now import their own source-texts from the Netherlands.
-David Seymour is a jazz journalist in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA.