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



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BENNY GOODMAN

Swings Again

American Jazz Classics 99075

 

 

1. Air Mail Special

2. Slipped Disc

3. Gotta Be This Or That

4. Where Or When

5. I Want To Be Happy

6. After You’ve Gone

7. Waiting For The Robert E. Lee

8. Bill Bailey Won’t You Please Come Home

9. Sing, Sing, Sing (With A Swing)

10. St James Infirmary

11. Air Mail Special

12. My Bay Done Tol’ Me

13. I Want To Be Happy

14. Runnin’ Wild

15. Gotta Be This Or That

16. After You’ve Gone

 

Collective personnel

Benny Goodman – Clarinet, vocals

Jack Sheldon – Trumpet

Flip Phillips – Tenor sax

Red Norvo – Vibes

Murray McEachern – Trombone

Jerry Dodgion – Alto sax

Russ Freeman - Piano

Jimmy Wyble - Guitar

Red Wootten - Bass

John Markham – Drums

Maria Marshall – Vocals (tracks 7-8)

 

Like a former rock star, Benny Goodman continued long after the swing era performing his “greatest hits”. His repetitiveness is confirmed by the fact that four of the seven “bonus tracks “ (numbers 10 to 16, recorded at various venues) are the same as tunes on the original LP, which was recorded at Ciro’s in Hollywood. Most of this album uses a ten-piece group, which spans the gap between Benny’s big band and his smaller combos. On these recordings from 1959 and 1960, there are occasional hints of Goodman not being quite as agile as he used to be. Can you believe that the King of Swing sometimes sounds breathless? Yet he is still the main soloist and can achieve some high-flying improvisations.

In fact Benny’s dominance tends to reduce the contributions of his talented sidemen. For instance, it would have been nice to hear more solos from trumpeter Jack Sheldon, although he gets some chances to shine on such tracks as the first version of Air Mail Special, although the riffing background tends to get in the way. On the other hand, vibist Red Norvo gets plenty of solos, which he executes with his usual dexterity. And saxists Flip Phillips and Jerry Dodgion also make valuable contributions.

The band swings with the same ease as Goodman’s earlier groups, but it would have been healthy to have included more new tunes instead of the (admittedly) good-old-good ones. Benny even revives Sing, Sing, Sing, a piece which is indelibly associated one drummer on one special occasion. John Markham does his best, although he can’t match the excitement of Gene Krupa’s original show-stopper. But Goodman’s clarinet solo wittily quotes And The Angels Sing as well as containing echoes of his Jewish background.

The personnel listings on the sleeve are confusing, as they fail to list the musicians on the bonus tracks (10 to 18). Red Norvo is listed as “out on 4 and 6” but I can hear a vibraphone on both these tracks. My Baby Done Tol’ Me has vocals by an unnamed singer, whose style is nearer R & B than swing. Despite these flaws, if you loved Benny’s original recordings you will probably enjoy this album, even though it consists mainly of reruns.

Tony Augarde
www.augardebooks.co.uk



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