You just can't hold the Naxos label back as they and Arthaus launch the Jazzhaus imprint (here and here) as well as this entry in the Big Bands Live series. Never a company to leave well enough alone, they unearthed a 1959 sweeter-than-sweet gig with a revelatory band (Red Norvo, Jack Shedon, Russ Freeman, Jerry Dodgion, etc…and of course the inimitable Anita O'Day) headed by the King of Swing, Benny Goodman on his heavenly clarinet. The promo lit claims Goodman and compeers paved the way for rock and roll, and, when you listen to this Oct. 15 date, you'll have no reason to disagree. Little Richard, Jerry Lee, the Beatles, and all the others would prove to be a lot more raucous, but the rhythms and modernizations here are unmistakable.
Over half a century later, Goodman's band and music have yet to be beat, timeless exponents of class and vivacity, not to mention pristine chops (man, but those cats of yesteryear were disciplined!), and Miss Anita hadn't exactly fallen off the turnip truck herself. Catch all the time signature slurs in Come Rain or Come Shine as she plays with the structure and cadence of the cut, the band laying down a carpet of velvet for the songstress to bop on. Then, if you will, waltz on over to her scatting in several cuts, straighten out that reet pleat, and get hip to jive, Jackson, 'cause we're taking the Wayback Machine tonight.
The crowd's obviously enamored of this eleven-piece dynamite combo, extremely generous with applause for all solos and then the songs themselves. My bet is that there were as many hep cats 'n kittens hanging off the walls enraptured as there were merrily dancing. Hard not to trip the lights groovetastic with romantic ballads like Body and Soul and all the rest, but, hey, you needn't put on the soft shoes and bowtie just to listen in…though I wouldn't blame ya if you did. And when you're done with Big Band Live and want more, I suggest you track down the outrageous Yale College sides that were released well after Goodman's death: stone unbelievable and perfect companions to this release.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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