Monday, January 16, 2012

The Night That Jazz Gained Fame

On this night in 1938, Benny Goodman and his band, along with select members of the Count Basie and Duke Ellington bands, performed a concert at Carnegie Hall. No jazz bandleader had ever performed there. The concert was a sensation, reaffirming Goodman as the "King of Swing," and jazz as serious American music. In the eyes of many music critics and historians, this concert remains the single most important event in popular music history in the United States. Superlatives aside, the concert was a study in swing music history and jazz improvisation. After several curtain calls at the end of the concert, Goodman announced to the screaming fans that an encore would follow.  Sing, Sing, Sing was the last song in that set. It already was a popular piece for the band, but this performance lifted it to holy status in the swing jazz genre. Featured players: Gene Kruppa on drums, Babe Russin on saxaphone, Harry James on trumpet, Goodman on clarinet, and Jess Stacy in a masterpiece of  improvisation on piano.

Recordings of the concert have remained in print as best sellers since 1950 when masters were found in Goodman's home. What more can be said?

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