Benny Goodman Live at Carnegie Hall

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Columbia/Legacy
WORKS: Live at Carnegie Hall
PERFORMER: Benny Goodman (cl) with his big band, trio & quartet, Cootie Williams, Harry James (t), Johnny Hodges (as), Lester Young (ts), Harry Carney (bs), Count Basie, Teddy Wilson (p), etc
CATALOGUE NO: CK 65143 ADD mono Reissue

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Within ten years of its initial release by Columbia on 13 November 1950, sales of Goodman’s Carnegie Hall concert on 16 January 1938 had exceeded 1m in the USA alone. Today, total worldwide sales of the album are incalculable, certainly no other jazz album approaches it and none matches its longevity since it has been a fixture in Columbia’s catalogue for almost 50 years. So why a new reissue?

Well, Goodman’s own acetate copy used for the release was not in mint condition and, since the concert, rumours have circulated that Albert Marx, who recorded the event, made a second safety back-up acetate in case of breakdown. Phil Schaap, who produced this re-release, managed to obtain that second acetate, which was in mint condition. Thus at one stroke the sonic fidelity of the concert is hugely improved. Even more important, several wrongs from the original release have been righted.

Two numbers by Goodman’s orchestra that were never issued are now included, the focal point of the concert, the jam session with Goodman, members of the Count Basie band (including Basie himself) and members of the Duke Ellington band, is now included in full (the original was edited down for inclusion on LP) and the concert is now in real time, including announcements, replacing that annoying piece of applause (four and a half seconds of it) dubbed in after every number.

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Thus the most important concert in jazz history, that moment when jazz moved from sleazy clubs and dance halls on to the concert stage, presenting black and white musicians playing alongside each other (a major step on the road to integration in apartheid USA), can now be revisited as it actually happened, in wonderfully improved sound. It is an album that should be in any serious collection of 20th-century music. Stuart Nicholson