on 9 February 2013
A very comprehensive 20CD set that charts Benny Goodman's studio recordings from the earliest sessions under his own name in 1928 to the boppish band he led in 1949 with Wardell Grey among the saxes. Apart from most of the Carnegie Hall concerts of 1938 and 1939, all the tracks are taken from studio sessions - airshots have not been included. Again, apart from some Carnegie tracks, the small groups have been ignored.
These omissions apart, the set as a whole is extremely enjoyable and the chronological arrangement ideal this type of project. It does not aim at completeness but all Goodman's finest big band recordings are here, together with a great deal of unfamiliar material. There is a good selection of music from the years that led up to the birth of the Swing Era including the Vocalion tracks from 1928, some very commercial sides from 1931 - pleasant if you enjoy 1930's dance music (I do) - and the 1933/4 'all star' bands organised by John Hammond and issued by Columbia.
The bulk of the set is made up of recordings made for RCA Victor between 1935 and 1939 and Columbia after this. These are, of course, among the most famous of all those made during the period and include all the classic arrangments by, amongst others, Fletcher Henderson, Eddie Sauter and Mel Powell. Benny always had a gift for employing good vocalists and Helen Ward, Martha Tilton, Louise Tobin, Helen Forrest and Peggy Lee are thoroughly enjoyable. In addition, there are guest appearances from Billie Holiday (her earliest sides), Mildred Bailey, and Ella Fitzgerald (moonlighting from Chick Webb). All the band's great soloists are well represented and Goodman's own clarinet is widely featured. He has an instantly recognisable sound and approach - certainly based on that of Jimmy Noone and other players in the Chicago of his youth but also with a fascinating, and very personal, admixture of sounds from the Jewish Kletzmer tradition. For an example of this, just listen to his solo on the RCA Victor version of 'Sing Sing Sing'.
There are some very basic - and not very accurate - discographical details and no notes. The remastering quality is only average but still perfectly acceptable. This issue is certainly an easy and economical way of obtaining some very enjoyable, and historically important, recordings. Highly recommended.
on 23 July 2011
If you want to look at the works of Benny Goodman in a big way for little outlay, then this is the Box set for you,the music starts in 1929 and finishes in the fifty's and although you do not have every track from this period you do have a very wide look at Benny and his Orchestra,from which you can then look into all the missing recordings. This set also adds a few interesting sidelines to the history of music, I.E. Benny recorded the the first song to mention "Rock and Roll" as a phrase and a song that was recorded by the great Thelonious Monk which was nameless and unknown for many years now confirmed to be an obscure song only recorded by Benny. and both are in this set. a set of strange, rare and delightful tunes by a major player in the history of jazz.