This wonderful quintet session took place on the first day of the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Party — April 20 — and it honored the King of Swing. The living practitioners of the jazz art on the bandstand were swing kings in their own right: Allan Vache, clarinet; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; John Cocuzzi, vibraphone; Richard Simon, string bass; Chuck Redd, drums.
Ruby Braff once told an interviewer (I am paraphrasing here) that after the world ended, there would still be two men sitting on an island telling Benny Goodman stories. And it’s true much of the posthumous attention paid to BG has been for his odd, often unappealing personality traits. But the music is what remains, and I wonder if it were possible to listen to some of his great melodic improvisations without a heavy layer of preconceptions (not only was he eccentric, but he was famous, Caucasian, Jewish, successful, popular — someone to be viewed with distrust in certain academic circles as being both an exploiter and a thief) would they not rank alongside, say, Benny Carter and Teddy Wilson, among others, for their beauty and clarity?
The music for this set came for the most part from the period in Goodman’s life when Charlie Christian was a transforming force. It amuses me that the people who decry post-1945 jazz as too ornate, too intellectual, too fast (think of Bird and Dizzy) don’t usually acknowledge that the very fast original lines the Goodman Sextet played in the years 1939-1945 lead directly into the “excesses of bebop.” (Blame John Kirby, too, while you’re at it.)
But music is more durable than the whims of its creators, the fictions created by ideologues, the dividing lines drawn by academics. Here is 2012 swing with a fine awareness of the past co-existing with its contemporary enthusiasm.
Variations on SLIPPED DISC, a title saying something about Goodman’s quite painful sciatica:
A SMOOTH ONE, the aptly titled line over LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER:
STEALIN’ APPLES, which owes its existence to both Fats Waller and Fletcher Henderson:
A feature for jazz master Bucky (a mainstay of later Goodman groups), Richard Simon, and Chuck Redd: Edgar Sampson’s STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY:
And a rousing THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR THE SUNRISE:
May your happiness increase.