Album of the week: Benny Goodman Live at Carnegie Hall

Our Lindy 3 and 4 teachers Peter and Julia present us every Monday with an Album of the Week, always including some amazing historical context and fun trivia. This made us really enthusiastic about learning more about the culture and the music. So we thought we’d share the love by putting all of them on our website. 

This is the Album of the week for the 11th of March. Benny Goodman’s Live At Carnegie Hall-1938 Complete.

Listen to the album on Spotify
Listen to the album on Youtube

Peter:
“This week’s AOTW transports us to a pivotal moment in jazz history – Benny Goodman’s iconic Carnegie Hall Concert of 1938. Known as the “King of Swing,” Goodman’s performance that night marked a turning point, bringing jazz into the esteemed venue and solidifying its place in mainstream music. This version specifically was aired in 1950 and includes and interview with the bandleader himself reminiscing about the concert.

Benny Goodman, born in 1909, rose to fame as a clarinetist and bandleader, earning acclaim for his precision and innovation. The Carnegie Hall Concert showcased his extraordinary talent, featuring legendary performances by Goodman and his ensemble.

However, his journey to the iconic Carnegie Hall Concert of 1938 wasn’t without challenges. As we have already learned about in one of our former AOTWs, he faced a notable defeat at the hands of Chick Webb during the legendary Battle of the Bands at the Savoy Ballroom. Despite this setback, Goodman’s resilience and determination spurred him to refine his craft and elevate his performances.

Goodman’s character, often described as demanding and exacting, reflected his dedication to musical perfection. His high standards, though challenging for his band members and to some seeming rough and edgy at times, contributed to the precision and tightness that became synonymous with the Benny Goodman Orchestra.

Amidst the demanding facade, Goodman’s commitment to racial integration showcased a more progressive side. His decision to feature African American musicians, notably pianist Teddy Wilson, vibraphonist Lionel Hampton (one of our former AOTWs!), and legendary guitarist Charlie Christian, was seen as groundbreaking in an era of racial segregation. This deliberate choice aimed to showcase talent over color, leaving an enduring mark on the jazz landscape.

Next to his big band, he also played in smaller combos very often. While the players sometimes varied, here some combos that stand out to me: They started as a trio in 1935 with Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa, and expanded with Lionel Hampton on the vibes in 1936. In 1939, Cootie Williams on the Trumpet and Charlie Christian on the guitar were added to make a sextet.

There is an interesting story about Christian’s joining the band and worth a separate read, if you’re interested. He was a highly influential guitar player and one of the early adapters of electrical guitars.

Benny Goodman continued to perform until a few days before his death in 1986.

One of our favourites, flying home(!!!), later to become Lionel Hampton’s signature song, comes from that time. It is unclear who to credit this song to, it is still in discussion to be Goodman, Hampton, Christian, or them coming up with different aspects each.”

Thank you very much for sharing this with us Peter and Julia!

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