Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall-1938: Complete
Rightly proclaimed as being the most significant concert in jazz history, the Jan. 16, 1938, appearance of the Benny Goodman orchestra at Carnegie Hall was not only an unprecedented coup for jazz and racially integrated public performance, as has so often been stated. It also served to open the doors of this prestigious venue to events as far ranging as John Hammond's 1938 and 1939 From Spirituals to Swing all-star concerts to Goodman once again in 1978 for his 40th anniversary celebration. Originally issued in a two-LP gatefold album in 1950, the nearly forgotten documentation of this historic event quickly became Columbia's best-selling jazz release, a distinction it was to hold for decades to come.
Although rumored among collectors for decades, the mass public had no way of knowing that not only had two big band numbers been excised from the commercial release and all subsequent reissues; Columbia's engineers also deleted an exciting, unplanned third solo chorus by trumpeter Buck Clayton, as well as the entirety of Harry Carney's and Freddie Green's solos, each two choruses in length while truncating the 17-minute all-star guest jam session on "Honeysuckle Rose."
Other soloists on this once-in-a-lifetime public jam are Lester Young, in one of his most glorious statements ever recorded, Johnny Hodges, Basie and his rhythm section, Goodman (giving more than a few hints as to how he played at sessions in Harlem and elsewhere) and Harry James, who shows what the jazz world lost when he devoted most of the next decade to commercial bandleading. With this present reissue, however, the entire performance of "Honeysuckle Rose," the previously unissued big band numbers "Sometimes I'm Happy" and Edgar Sampson's "If Dreams Come True" and all of Goodman's announcements are restored to the way they were heard by Carnegie Hall's audience on that prescient night 61 years ago. While Green's rhythm guitar solo is revealing only insofar as he allowed himself to be coaxed into playing one at all, baritonist Carney rises to unexpected heights of extended solo improvisation, a talent sadly never exploited on his many recordings with Ellington and only sporadically on dates apart from Duke.
Outstanding in the program are the well-known Fletcher Henderson, Jimmy Mundy and Edgar Sampson-charted big band numbers "Don't Be That Way," "One O'Clock Jump," "Life Goes to a Party" and "Blue Skies," among others. But we also delight in the interspersed heated trio and quartet numbers with Goodman, Krupa, Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton like "Body and Soul" and the burning "I Got Rhythm." The feeling of swing is so intense on this set that it defies verbal description.
Programmed early in the first half of the concert was a segment called "Twenty Years of Jazz," in which Goodman paid tribute to a few other artists and bands. First up is the Original Dixieland Jazz Band's "Sensation Rag" by a five-piece Dixie combo manned by "probably" Bobby Hackett on cornet, Benny, Brown, Stacy, and Krupa. Contrary to expectations, their approach to this "old-timey" tune is appropriately spirited and not at all hokey. But the highlight of this mini-set is Ellington's "Blue Reverie," with Johnny Hodges' masterfully played, Bechet-inspired soprano sax, Carney's broad-toned baritone and Cootie Williams' plunger-muted trumpet.
Although this concert belongs in every historically-minded jazz fan's collection, first-time purchasers should be advised that, even with the most advanced remastering techniques available today, complete removal of the never-really-intrusive clicks and pops on the original acetates would have compromised the frequency spectrum governing such aural essentials as harmonic overtones, tonal brilliance and, not the least, the incomparable acoustics of the Hall itself.