CD1 Florida Sessions 1959
2. Sometimes I’m Happy
4. Dark Shadows
5. Tea for Two
6. Deacon and the Elder
7. I Want to be Happy
8. Someone to Watch Over Me
10. Sweet Music
11. Time on My Hands
13.The Best Thing for You
Benny Goodman – Clarinet
Flip Phillips – Tenor sax
Bill Harris – Trombone
Marty Harris – Piano
Leo Robinson – Guitar
Al Simi – Bass
Bob Binnix – Drums
This CD is particularly interesting because Benny is a sideman in
someone else’s band; previously this had only happened in the very
earlier part of his career. He rose to the occasion in great style
and obviously fitted in with the Phillips-Harris Band very well. It
must have been a nice change for him not to have the responsibility
of being in charge.
Flip Phillips played extremely well as he always did, very much a
Lester Young disciple, he had a great sound and a seemingly endless
flow of ideas. Benny had invited him to join his band, but Flip was
happy where he was. Bill Harris was a stable mate of Flip’s in the
Woody Herman Band, the pair were the band's star soloists for some
time, but it was their time with JATP that brought them both real
fame. It was Flip and Bill who chose the material for this session.
It was no wonder that Benny enjoyed himself so much, because Flip
and Bill had organised a nice tight little band with a rhythm that
was neat and swinging without ever being overbearing.
This is a band of three equals as far as both soloing and ensemble
playing is concerned. I would travel miles to hear anyone who could
play like these. They tear into the up-tempo material, but they are
equally relaxed on the slower numbers. All the solos are relatively
short but of very high quality. Whether they are playing the blues
as in Ten Bone or their version of Rosetta which pays
small acknowledgement to the original and ends in Charlie Parker’s
Yardbird Suite, every track is a winner.
As a lifetime fan of Flip, Bill and Benny, I never expected to hear
anything from them all playing together in a small group: the interaction
between them is almost telepathic. On Splanky, the Basie favourite
by Neal Hefti, Flip and Bill play the brass parts and Benny the part
usually played by the saxes, but it works well with just the three-piece
The last number, The Best Thing for You, is one of my favourite
tunes; it has unusual harmonies and always provides jazzmen with something
of a challenge. Written by Irving Berlin for the 1950 Call Me Madam
show, it has stood the test of time well and these guys do it real
Loren Schoenberg’s informative sleeve-note says that throughout this
CD, the melody lingers like the taste of a fine wine. I totally agree!
CD2 Hollywood & New York 1958-61
1. It’s All Right with Me
2. Willow Weep for Me
3. My Little Grass Shack
4. Too Many Tears
5. Easy to Love
7. Sweet Leilani
8. Song of the Islands
9. The Moon of Manakoora
10. On the Beach in Waikiki
11. Blue Hawaii
12. Bei Mir Bist Du Schon
13. Gershwin Medley
14. Rodgers and Hart Medley
Tracks 1, 5, & 6. Recorded September 1958, Hollywood
Benny Goodman - Clarinet, André Previn – Piano, Barney Kessel – Guitar,
Leroy Vinnegar – Bass, Frank Capp – Drums
Tracks 2, 7 to 11. Recorded January 1961, New York
Bernie Privin – Trumpet, Lou McGarity – Trombone, Toots Mondello –
Alto sax, Zoot Sims – Tenor sax, Hank Rowlans – Piano, Tony Mottola
– Guitar, George Duvivier – Bass, Morey Feld – Drums, Eddie Costa
– Vibes, Bill Stegmeyer – Arranger
Track 12. Recorded September 1958, Hollywood
Mannie Klein, Conrad Gozzo, Irving Goodman, Don Fagerquist – Trumpets
Joe Howard, Murray McEachen, Milt Berhardt – Trombones
Herb Geller, Bud Shank, Buddy Collette, Dave Pell, Chuck Gentry –
Russ Freeman – Piano, Al Henrickson – Guitar, Leroy Vinnegar – Bass,
Frank Capp – Drums, Martha Tilton – Vocals
Tracks 13, 14. Recorded May1967, Stamford, Conn.
Mel Powell – Piano, Roy Burns – Drums
This record has more of BG at his best but this time in different
company, I was not aware that he had recorded with André Previn, but
I find the tracks where André and Barney Kessel are also featured
bring out the best in all concerned. Many of the tracks have arrangements
by Bill Stegmeyer and they are also very successful. Two of my favourite
musicians, Zoot Sims and Lou McGarity, are also featured. Lou may
not be as well known as Zoot, but he was one of the finest trombone
players of the era.
Arranger Bill Stegmeyer hailed from the reed section of the Glenn
Miller Band; he was also one of the band’s arrangers. In addition
he had a successful career as a composer, arranger and MD for many
Benny always rose to the challenge whenever he played in a band where
there were other outstanding soloists. On this CD there are many and
Benny is well up for the challenge.
The big band track (12) is interesting, again the band is packed
with top musicians, although few are featured. There is a Ziggy Elman
type trumpet solo, but I don’t know which of the section played it,
the vocal being from Martha Tilton, a long-time fixture in BG’s bands.
The last two tracks have just Mel Powell and Roy Burnes on piano
and drums respectively. They amply demonstrate the amazing rapport
between Powell and Goodman; both were in the musical genius bracket.
For me it would have sounded even better with a bass player, but I
would not want to be critical of Benny Goodman: all his playing is
a great joy.
CD3 The Original Benny Goodman Quartet 1963
3. Who Cares?
4. September Song
5. Just One of Those Things
6. Love Sends a Little Gift of Roses
7. Oh, Gee! Oh, Joy!
8. Bernie’s Tune
9. East of the Sun
10. Four Once More
12. But Not for Me
13. Somebody Loves Me
14. It’s All Right with Me
Benny Goodman – Clarinet
Teddy Wilson – Piano
Lionel Hampton – Vibes
Gene Krupa – Drums
As far as I know, this was the only time the original quartet got
back together, since their recordings in the years 1936 to 1938, when
they regularly worked together. It is fortunate that they were all
still in good shape and the four days they spent making these tracks
produced some sparkling music.
Teddy Wilson’s playing was always immaculate, every chord was correct
and he could swing at the drop of a hat! Hamp was always the Mr Excitement
of the band, not only for his musical ability but because he was also
a super showman. The latter aspect of course does not really come
over on record, but his playing gives me a picture in my mind's eye
of how he must have been. Krupa was quite subdued for him in the Quartet,
but it is a tribute to his quality as a drummer that he could always
provide that which was required.
Benny always sounded inspired in this company on the original quartet
recordings and the years must have rolled away for him on this record.
Here he was some twenty-five years later and it was all happening
With reference to my earlier comments about playing without a bass
player, Teddy Wilson plays a bass line with his left hand during most
of the numbers and he was such a magnificent player that the bass
is not so greatly missed.
In jazz history the importance of the BG Quartet is often forgotten
and yet the MJQ who are frequently mentioned were to my mind a direct
line from here.
These three CDs are an important part of jazz history and also provide
excellent listening in an interesting and varied programme by one
of the finest clarinet players the world has ever known.