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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove

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Celebrates 100 Years of Benny

Arbors Jazz ARCD 19389



1. Benny´s Bugle
2. In a Sentimental Mood
3. If I Had You
4. My Funny Valentine
5. That´s A Plenty
6. Stompin´ at The Savoy
7. Moonlight in Vermont
8. I Got Rhythm
9. Poor Butterfly
10. Sing, Sing, Sing

Dave Bennett - Clarinet
Dick Hyman - Piano (tracks 1, 5, 10)
Ed Metz Jr. - Drums (tracks 1, 5, 10)
Bucky Pizzarelli - Guitar (tracks 2, 3, 4, 7)
Jerry Bruno - Bass (tracks 2, 3, 4, 7)
Paul Keller - Bass (tracks 6, 9)
Pete Siers - Drums (tracks 6, 8, 9)
Bill Meyer - Piano (tracks 6, 8, 9)
Jim Cooper - Vibes (tracks 6, 8, 9)
Hugh Leal - Guitar (tracks 6, 9)

The centenary of Benny Goodman's birth falls on 30 May, 2009, so we may expect several tributes like this recording. Young musician Dave Bennett actually learnt to play the clarinet by ear through playing along with a tape of Benny Goodman's recordings. In 2003, he formed his "Tribute to Benny Goodman Sextet" (which appears on three tracks of this CD) and he has already made two albums celebrating Goodman's music. He reminds me of several other clarinettists, such as Britain's Dave Shepherd, who have spent much of their time playing in Goodman style.

The problem is that, as with many other "tributes", listeners are bound to compare the artist with his inspiration. And yet Dave Bennett is quoted in the sleeve-notes as saying: "When Benny was playing his music, he wasn't playing recreated solos. He was coming up with new ideas. If he were alive today, he would want me to be myself, do my own thing, and not copy him". Dave doesn't exactly copy Goodman, although he plays several tunes that Goodman made famous. In fact Dave sometimes has a harsher, less mellow tone than Benny's, and his intonation on a track like In a Sentimental Mood can be unsettlingly sour.

At least the album is given variety by using three different sets of musicians. Three of the tracks benefit greatly from the driving drums of Ed Metz Jr. and the masterly piano of Dick Hyman (a musician who played for Benny Goodman). Another Goodman alumnus, Bucky Pizzarelli, adds considerably to the appeal of four other tunes.

The sextet tracks were recorded at a 2006 concert and, despite the audience's enthusiasm, the playing tends to lack the punch of Goodman's original small groups, although Pete Siers' drums propel I Got Rhythm along vigorously. But even on this track, Dave Bennett seems less inventive than Benny was, resorting to riffs in the absence of inspiration. Still, Bill Meyer's piano solo adds some touches of humour. And the album ends with an exhilarating trio version of Sing, Sing, Sing in which Hyman and Metz stimulate Bennett to greater things. Nevertheless, as with many "tribute" albums, this CD too often results in a pale imitation instead of a worthy tribute.

Tony Augarde

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