30 May 2007

Benny's swingin' Birthday!

While we're into jazz birthdays, today is also the birthday of the "King of Swing":

Benny Goodman
1909–1986
The "King of Swing" desgination was foisted on him from the media of the day; but although Benny may not have "invented" swing (other orchestras had been playing it since the late 1920s), it was the Goodman Orchestra's break-out in 1935 that ignited swing as the popular music of its time...and subsequently made my favorite dance, Lindy Hop, the official great folk dance of the U.S.
Regardless of whether Goodman deserved the Kingly title or not, he fronted one helluva band. I may prefer Count Basie and Artie Shaw, but Goodman runs in a tight pack at the front of the race for greatest swing band of all time. I own a huge collection of his recordings, and any one of them can get my feet moving and Lindy Hop grooving. Especially the period from 1935–1938 when he had Gene Krupa playing drums and either Bunny Berigan of Harry James on the horn. In addition, black bandleader Fletcher Henderson was throwing out amazing charts for the band, bringing the sound of Harlem into the homes of Middle America through radios and 78s. It was a thrilling time in music, and every time I play Goodman's version of "Swingtime in the Rockies," or "Sing Me a Swing Song (And Let Me Dance)," or "Christopher Columbus," or "Roll 'Em," or "Stompin' at the Savoy," or any number of other astonishing pieces, I'm whisked back to that era.