In 1934 Chicago white clarinetist Benny Goodman (1909), who had moved to New York in 1928, formed the big band (three saxophones, three trumpets, two trombones, and four rhythm instruments) that was to define the swing era, the epitome being Benny Carter's Take My Word (august 1934) for four saxophones. National success came from 1935 when Goodman refined his rhythm section, built around white drummer Gene Krupa, and employed Fletcher Henderson to arrange the second-rate material (notably Jelly Roll Morton's King Porter Stomp). The band was promoted for six months by a radio program, "Let's Dance", and then a concert at the "Palomar Ballroom" in Los Angeles was broadcast live causing mass hysteria. For several years it continued to be a major attraction on the radio (the new program, "The Camel Caravan," was broadcast in prime time), and in 1938 was given the honor of a a concert at New York's "Carnegie Hall". Its audience was mainly made of white teenagers, who perceived the Goodman Orchestra as a social revolution and attended its performances in a state of screaming frenzy.
Among the hits were Will Hudson's ballad Moonglow (june 1934), Irving Berlin's Blue Skies (january 1935), Vincent Youmans' Sometimes I'm Happy (july 1935), Edgar Sampson's Stompin At The Savoy (january 1936),
Irving Berlin's This Year's Kisses (january 1937),
trumpeter Ziggy Elman's And the Angels Sing (january 1938),
and especially two "hot" dance numbers arranged by trumpeter Jimmy Mundy, Elmer Schoebel' Bugle Call Rag (august 1934) and Louis Prima's Sing Sing Sing (january 1938).
But Goodman also continued to lead a second life as a soloist. The Benny Goodman Trio with black pianist Teddy Wilson, Krupa and himself on clarinet, that recorded Turner Layton's After You've Gone (july 1935) and Johnny Green's Body And Soul (july 1935),
later expanded into a Quartet with the addition of black vibraphonist Lionel Hampton (the first virtuoso of an instrument that had just been invented), notably in Harry Akst's Dinah (august 1936), Harrington Gibbs' Runnin' Wild (february 1937), Vincent Rose's Avalon (june 1937) and Hampton's own Vibraphone Blues (august 1936), was possibly the first band to mix white and black musicians.
It evolved into a Sextet (Goodman on clarinet, Hampton on vibes, Henderson on piano, Christian on guitar plus bass and drums) that became a launching pad
for Christian's solos,
as in Hampton's Flying Home (august 1939),
Art Hickman's Rose Room (august 1939),
Seven Come Eleven (december 1939),
Shivers (december 1939),
Air Mail Special (june 1940),
Six Appeal (june 1940),
Breakfast Feud (december 1940),
Wholly Cats (january 1941).
These smaller entities were more artistically successful (albeit less commercially successful) than the big band.
In 1940 Goodman reorganized the big band with Charlie Christian on the amplified guitar and (the following year) Mel "Powell" Epstein on piano and Sid Catlett on drums. Powell contributed elegant detours and highbrow compositions such as Mission To Moscow (composed in 1941, first recorded in july 1942).
Quite the opposite in attitude and style, southerner
Charlie Christian (who died in 1942), improving over the innovations of acoustic guitarists Lonnie Johnson and Eddie Lang (and perhaps applying to his instrument the lesson of Lester Young), turned the electric guitar into a solo instrument, equal to saxophone, trumpet or clarinet.
Christian stole the show in Solo Flight (1941), his guitar concerto.
Together with bass and drums Powell and Christian created a kind of daring and unpredictable rhythm section that had never been seen before.
And the hits, such as Benny Rides Again (november 1940) and Darn That Dream (debuted in november 1939), were now composed and arranged by Eddie Sauter, a far more competent musician than the average jazz arranger, who tried to blend classical and jazz music in pieces such as Concerto For Jazz Band And Orchestra and Focus (july 1961) for Stan Getz and a string orchestra.
The last hits were:
Taking a Chance on Love (november 1940),
Russ Morgan's There'll Be Some Changes Made (november 1941) with Peggy Lee,
Somebody Else Is Taking My Place (november 1941),
Jersey Bounce (january 1942),
Gotta Be This or That (april 1945),
Symphony (september 1945).
Goodman died in 1986.
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