Written in between sets at the 2019 Redwood Coast Music Festival.
For some jazz fans, however one defines that slippery term, it remains fashionable to look down on Benjamin David Goodman, hot clarinetist. He was popular and prolific, prosperous and famous; he didn’t suffer (except for severe back pain); he lived a long time, was pale in complexion and Hebraic at birth. Some thought his press-agentry (“the King of Swing”) was both inaccurate and insulting to other monarchs.
And the overwhelming evidence of his music has had, for some, a flattening effect: those who don’t listen closely might find that one version of AVALON runs into the next, high-speed crowd-pleasing set pieces. (However, I notice that few raise the same objection with Charlie Parker’s returning to his controlled repertoire.)
But he was not only an extraordinary musician; he was a hot improviser who had splendid taste in his colleagues. This post is for Kati Powell, daughter of the delightful and always-surprising pianist / composer / arranger Mel Powell, pictured above, whose work brightens every recording he ever made.
Here is a new lovely discovery, brought to us by the generous “Davey Tough” — whose YouTube channel is one marvel after another. Listen, savor, and be transformed. These three men are not going through the motions, and their hot virtuosity has yet to be equaled, both in solo and in ensemble:
Play that again. Three minutes more out of your busy life will be rewarded by beauty. And give thanks to the unknown recordist, who made marvels permanent rather than evanescent.
May your happiness increase!