On a cold night in January 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.
|Publicity style candid photo of Goodman ca. 1970|
Eighteen months later Goodman and his band found themselves on stage at that Carnegie Hall concert. 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 included Gene Kruppa on drums, Babe Russin on saxophone, Harry James on trumpet, Goodman on clarinet, and Jess Stacy in a masterpiece of improvisation on piano. Here is thirteen minutes and six seconds of invention that transformed swing jazz into mainstream American music.
Today marks the birthday of Benny Goodman (1909-1986). Eighty years after his landmark appearance in Carnegie Hall the world still enjoys the music and legacy of the "King of Swing. In fact, recordings of that famous concert have remained in print as best sellers since 1950 when masters were found in Goodman's home. There isn't much more to be said. Go listen to the music!
Photos and Illustrations:
public domain publicity portrait
title quote, quoteikon.com
Benny Goodman entry, wikipedia.org