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A Tribute to Benny Goodman-- The Julian Bliss Septet

Great Britain's Julian Bliss is a renowned classical clarinetist who even has his own line of "Bliss" clarinets available from Conn Selmer. At the age of seven, however, he became enamored with the music of Benny Goodman, and 14 years later in 2010 decided to form a group to perform Goodman's music. With the help of pianist Neal Thornton, a band of like-minded British musicians was formed, a repertoire chosen, concerts booked and performed, and finally this CD was recorded in September of 2011. Wanting to go with the small group sound of Goodman's sextet, they decided to add a trumpet in order to be able to approximate a big band texture as well. The instrumentation here should be familiar to Goodman fans, with Bliss on clarinet fronting pianist Thornton, vibraphonist Jim Hart, guitarist Colin Oxley, trumpeter Martin Shaw, bassist Tim Thornton, and drummer Matt Skelton.

Unlike many classical musicians, Bliss is capable of swinging mightily and adapting his formidable technique to the task at hand. He, Thornton, Hart, and Oxley certainly invoke memories of Goodman, Teddy Wilson, Lionel Hampton, and Charlie Christian, respectively, as one listens to these fresh and vital interpretations of tunes associated with Goodman, but these are no slavish repertory recreations. The best tribute bands both satisfy you on their own merits while at the same time compelling you to revisit the original recordings. The Julian Bliss Septet succeeds on both counts. The thirteen selections include "Stompin' at the Savoy," "Moonglow," "Lady be Good (Rifftide)," "Seven Come Eleven," "Avalon;" "Soft Winds," "Goodbye," and even Paganini's "Caprice No. 24," which Goodman played and once recorded. Good music is timeless, especially when played with such enthusiasm and flair.

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Scott Albin