The much-loved jazzman Jim Goodwin died this year just shy of his sixty-fifth birthday. I’ve written elsewhere on this blog about his talents, but what struck me when I first heard him on record was his surpassing heat, a pushing intensity that drove the musicians around him. Red Allen had it, as did Roy Eldridge. Think of Louis on HOTTER THAN THAT, or the closing choruses of I NEVER KNEW by the Chocolate Dandies, or Joe Sullivan in his prime.
Jim always played — no matter what the context or the tempo — as if his life depended on it. Not necessarily loud or high, not necessarily spattering the listener with fancy runs, but taking chances, never coasting. Even when he playing the opening chorus of something like PLEASE BE KIND, you knew that the request wasn’t an idle one: he meant business!
Many of Jim’s vinyl recordings haven’t yet made it to compact disc, and there are private sessions treasured by those who have heard them. But he and his friend Dave Frishberg made DOUBLE PLAY, an enlivening duet session for Arbors Records (they were both passionate baseball aficionados). [As I write this, the CD and cassette versions are available at the Arbors site for reduced prices. ]
And, more recently, the Blue Swing label has issued two sets featuring an incendiary little band, the Sunset Music Company, recorded live in Europe, under the leadership of banjoist / singer Lueder Ohlwein, and featuring Jim alongside such notables as Dan Barrett, John Smith, Bill Carter, Mike Fay, and Jeff Hamilton. Think of a cross between Fats Waller and his Rhythm circa 1935 and the Rhythmakers, and you’ve got the collective ambiance of these rewarding concert recordings.
Finally, Jim’s dear friend and musical colleague Retta Christie (whose singing is full of feeling and swing) has created a website to honor Jim — content and photographs provided by his friends, so it has a delightful, often hilarious candor not always found on the web. And — there are audio clips for those for whom Jim was just a legendary name.
Instead of reading the grim headlines in the newspaper or cyber-shopping, look and listen here. I assure you that the experience will be uplifting. And Hot. http://jamesrgoodwin.com/