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Benny Goodman: The Complete RCA Victor Small Group Recordings

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If hearkened to by today’s young reed players, especially those not yet discouraged by the clarinet’s many challenges, these 1935-39 recordings of the Benny Goodman Trio and Quartet might just prove an inspiration. But even if they don’t succeed in swaying a contemporary generation to contemplate the beauties and challenges of this style of jazz, one that prevailed long before the complexities and anxieties of a later time, they will, at the very least, satisfy the long frustrated needs of Goodman collectors the world over. Although some of these July 13, 1935 to April 6, 1939 sides have been among the most widely reissued jazz recordings of all time, never before have they all been grouped together in chronological order in one package, and that boasting the latest in technological restoration advances, as far as retention of original sound integrity is concerned.

Quantitatively, the three-disc boxed set comprises 67 tracks, 47 of which are the originally mastered performances, with the remaining 20 consisting of flawlessly played alternate takes, inclusive of two (“After You’ve Gone” and “Body And Soul” from the first session) having been previously available only on an unauthorized limited edition LP, and one, “Tiger Rag,” that was previously unissued in any form. Among the 17 other alternates, there are “Moonglow,” “Sweet Sue-Just You,” “Stompin’ At The Savoy,” “Avalon,” “I’m A Ding Dong Daddy (From Dumas),” “‘S Wonderful” and “I Know That You Know.”

From a strictly musical point of view, the importance of these recordings cannot be overestimated. Goodman was then, as he is still now remembered, the prevailing master of swinging, inventive, hot clarinet and he had found ideal partners from the beginning in Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa, a rhythm team soon augmented by the equally-vital Lionel Hampton. Subsequent occasional additions and substitutions, such as those of Helen Ward, Martha Tilton, Ziggy Elman, Dave Tough, John Kirby, Jess Stacy, and Buddy Schutz scarcely make a dent in the overall sound aura that constituted the Goodman combo appeal. One hardly notices their comings and goings, so sweepingly does Benny capture our interest throughout. For the most part, latent surface noise from the source copies has been greatly reduced, but not at the expense of sacrificing the natural timbres of the clarinet, piano and vibes, a fault common to many previous reissues. In essence, the sound of the original 78s remains intact.