Ten years from now, critics will be calling Benny Goodman's records jazz classics. All of a sudden Benny will become the idol of those whose esoteric writings dismiss him as "commercial" today. If he dies, so much the better, for he will be immortal, like Bix, and legends will tell of how be drank himself to death and of how he just played because he loved jazz and the hell with the money anyway. Finally, any statements to the effect that Benny might not have been the greatest, most moving, relaxed, sincere, inviolated clarinetist in the world, will automatically become anathema.
Be that as it may, right now Goodman isn't receiving half the credit he deserves. You must remember that when he organized his band in 1935, the kind of arrangements he played constituted something entirely new in jazz. Even Fletcher Henderson's great band never had the ensemble precision and bite that you heard on the old Goodman records. Fletcher, it's true, arranged most of the stuff that Benny played, but Benny and his musicians deserve the credit for doing proper justice to those arrangements, which would be worthless if played by an inferior band.
In those days, Goodman's music wasn't a surprise to the listening audience alone. The musicians themselves were discovering a new kind of arranged jazz, and their enthusiasm for it was shown by the enthusiasm with which they played. All bands sound best when they're young, and Goodman's was no exception. The way that outfit would dig into an ordinary pop tune was nothing short of amazing, and some of the most exciting jazz I've ever heard came from Benny's band at the Pennsylvania. Goodman's success is directly responsible for every good swing orchestra playing today, for if his music hadn't gone over back in 1936, we never would have had a swing craze, and you and I would have to be satisfied with Carmen Lombardo singing the St. Louis Blues, hot dog. Consequently I'd like to mention several of Benny's early recordings that you'd do well to buy before they become collector's items.
By the orchestra: Swingtime in the Rockies and I've Found a New Baby; Down South Camp Meeting; Sometimes I'm Happy and King Porter (Bunny Berigan featured on both sides); Bugle Call Rag (with some terrific Goodman clarinet); Roll 'Em (arranged by Mary Lou Williams, one of the first boogie-woogie orchestrations). By the trio: Body and Soul (with one of Teddy Wilson's best choruses); China Boy. By the Quartet: Sweet Georgia Brown; Tea for Two.
NEWS AND NEW RELEASES. Jack Teagarden is currently at the Brunswick. Featured are Jack, brother Charlic (trumpet), and Danny Polo (clarinet), but somehow there's nothing particularly inspiring. Good for dancing, though...Goodman's new outfit will start a flock of one-nighters about Nov. 10. He'll be within driving distance and probably worth going to see. A not-so-wild rumor says Cootie Williams will be with him. Ellington's loss is Goodman's gain, but I can't see Cootie with anyone but the Duke...Record of the week is Special Delivery Stomp by Artie Shaw's Gramercy Five (VICTOR). Featured is Billy Butterfield, whose muted trumpet beats Muggsy at his own game. Also heard are Johnny Guarneri, playing a harpsichord (!),, and Nick Fatool, whose drumming is reminiscent of Krupa at his best. Whole record jumps like hell. Reverse in Keepin' Myself For You, and makes good dancing...Count Basic cuts two sides of fast blues entitled The World Is Mad (OKEH), and stars the tenor sax of Lester Young, who plays some almost unbelievable jazz. Jo Jones and the rhythm section are exceptionally good...Harlan Leonard and his Kansas City Rockets show a lot of clean ensemble polish on A-La-Bridges (OKEH), a slow tune featuring a long tenor chorus. It's typical colored orchestration, not unlike Lunceford, though a little less elaborate...