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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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BENNY GOODMAN
AND HIS ORCHESTRA

The Essential BG

PROPER RECORDS
Properbox 5109

 

 


Disc One: King Porter Stomp

1. Basin Street Blues

2. I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues

3. Your Mother’s Son-in-Law

4. Ol’ Pappy

5. Moonglow

6. Nitwit Serenade

7. Bugle Call Rag

8. Music Hall Rag

9. Blue Moon

10. Down Home Rag

11. Japanese Sandman

12. You’re a Heavenly Thing

13. Get Rhythm in Your Feet (and Music in Your Soul)

14. Ballad in Blue

15. Blue Skies

16. Dear Old Southland

17. Sometimes I’m Happy

18. King Porter Stomp

19. (You’ve Got Me in between) The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

20. Madhouse

21. Eeny Meeny Miney Mo

22. When Buddah [sic] Smiles

23. It’s Been So Long

24. Stompin’ at the Savoy

25. Goody-Goody

Disc Two: Don’t Be That Way

1. Christopher Columbus

2. I Know That You Know

3. Stardust

4. You Can’t Pull the Wool over My Eyes

5. The Glory of Love

6. These Foolish Things

7. Swingtime in the Rockies

8. House Hop

9. You Turned the Tables on Me

10. Down South Camp Meeting

11. Love Me or Leave Me

12. Organ Grinder’s Swing

13. Alexander’s Ragtime Band

14. Jam Session

15. Goodnight My Love

16. Smoke Creams

17. He Ain’t Got Rhythm

18. This Year’s Kisses

19. Sing, Sing, Sing

20. Roll ‘Em

21. Peckin’

22. Ridin’ High

23. Life Goes to a Party

24. If Dreams Come True

25. Don’t Be That Way

Disc Three: Let’s Dance

1. One o’ Clock Jump

2. I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart

3. Big John Special

4. Wrappin’ It Up

5. Bach Goes to Town

6. And the Angles Sing

7. How Your Linen, Miss Richardson

8. There’ll Be Some Changes Made

9. Jumpin’ at the Woodside

10. Stealin’ Apples

11. Night and Day

12. I Thought about You

13. Let’s Dance

14. Darn That Dream

15. Honeysuckle Rose

16. Opus Local

17. Board Meeting

18. Zaggin’ with Zig

19. How High the Moon

20. Shake Down the Stars

21. Yours Is My Heart Alone

22. Cocoanut Grove

23. The Hour of Parting

24. Crazy Rhythm

25. Who Cares

26. Benny Rides Again

Disc Four: Undercurrent Blues

1. Henderson Stomp

2. Taking a Chance on Love

3. Frenesi

4. Superman

5. Let the Door Knob Hitcha

6. Scarecrow

7. Solo Flight

8. Fiesta in Blue

9. Air Mail Special

10. When the Sun Comes Out

11. Tuesday at Ten

12. The Count

13. Pound Ridge

14. The Earl

15. Caprice XXIV Paganini

16. My Old Flame

17. Clarinet a la King

18. Jersey Bounce

19. Idaho

20. Why Don’t You Do Right?

21. Mission to Moscow

22. All the Cats Join In

23. Clarinade

24. Lonely Moments

25. Undercurrent Blues

 

I always approach cautiously music collections which profess to be “the Best of …” or, as in this case, “the Essential ….” Implicit is the question, “According to whom?” Here, it is Joop Visser, who has a long list of such compilations of recordings from the swing era, many of them for Proper Records, as well as an equally long list of liner notes, all of which lend credibility to his “expertise.” However, I’m sure many, like me, will regret the omission of some title or other.

This is an impressive group of cuts by the Goodman bands, spread over the four CD’s. They follow a chronological order, beginning with a track from the pre-Goodman-leader days, Basin Street Blues, by the Ben Pollock-led Charleston Chasers, recorded in New York, on Feb.9, 1931. This is the only track by a band not led by Goodman, the other 100 all being under his aegis. The last track comes from a recording session of Feb. 10, 1949, in Hollywood.

Goodman was something of a child prodigy, becoming a professional musician at the age of thirteen. As well as being precocious, he was somewhat temperamental and did not enjoy the role of sideman. After flitting in and out of several bands and taking on studio work to make ends meet, he finally got an opportunity to form his own band in 1934 when he was twenty-five. Between 1934 and 1949, a procession of soon-to-be giants of the swing era passed through his ranks, including Gene Krupa, Harry James, Ziggy Elman, Bunny Berigan, Teddy Wilson, Jess Stacy—one could go on and on. Many of them, of course, went on to form their own bands after building something of a reputation with Goodman. The same could be said of singers. At one time or another Mildred Bailey, Helen Ward, Helen Forrest, Peggy Lee, and Ella Fitzgerald all sang with Goodman bands. All are to be heard on this CD set. Goodman was also blessed with fine arrangers, three of them being Fletcher Henderson, Mel Powell, and Eddie Sauter. Thanks in large part to their arranging talents, as well as those of the musicians themselves, the band swung mightily so that by 1940 Goodman was securely on the throne as the King of Swing.

Lacking in this 4-CD set are any performances from the Carnegie Hall Concert of Jan. 16, 1938, where the Goodman band was approaching its peak. (These however, have been issued in a two-CD set that is still, as far as I am aware, available.)

Also missing from this compilation are any performances by the Goodman trios or quartets. Certainly for me these form part of what I would consider “essential” Goodman, but the title of the set, it must be conceded, is “Benny Goodman and his orchestra.” Perhaps Proper Records has it in mind to produce separately a set of these small group performances. One can hope. It would be good to have in one place most, if not all, of these classic recordings.

In his 60-odd page booklet, Visser provides a brief biography, numerous photographs, and thorough, detailed analyses of the performances on the four discs, including identifications of the soloists. He also appends a full discography.

It is difficult to know to whom this set will most appeal. Goodman fans will probably have many if not most of the recordings here included, but those who do not—and those who are new to Goodman—will want to get it. Coupled with the excellent liner note booklet and the very reasonable price, it is an attractive offering to add to a collection, whether one is a seasoned collector or a tyro.

Bert Thompson



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