Complete RCA Victor Small Group Recordings

COMPOSERS: Goodman,Hampton,Krupa
LABELS: RCA Victor
ALBUM TITLE: Benny Goodman
PERFORMER: Benny Goodman (cl); Teddy Wilson, Jess Stacy (pno); Lionel Hampton (vib, v, d), Gene Krupa, Dave Tough, Buddy Schutz (d); John Kirby (b); Ziggy Elman (t); Helen Ward, Martha Tilton (v)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68764 2

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Goodman’s small group recordings of the Thirties and early Forties are among the most beautiful chamber music in jazz, and culminate in the work of his marvellous sextet which was to include Lionel Hampton and guitarist Charlie Christian. This CD set covers the period 13 July 1935 to 6 April 1939, and features his trio with Wilson and Krupa, which becomes a quartet with the addition of Hampton.

Towards the end of the period, personnel begin to change as some musicians leave and others are recruited. In December 1938, bassist John Kirby joins, making the group a quintet for one series of recordings. Goodman may have been somewhat buttoned up as a man, but his clarinet solos in these memorable performances are forged in the heat of each passing moment. The balance of personalities in his trio is the key to its artistic success and erstwhile popularity.

If Goodman is reserved in manner but passionate in expression, Gene Krupa is the total extrovert, swinging joyously either subtly with brushes, or brashly with sticks, and Teddy Wilson’s rapt elegance combines icy control with the most fiery rhythmic, harmonic and melodic surprises. When the outgoing, irrepressible Hampton makes it a quartet, the colours of his vibraphone, his headlong rhythms and appreciative grunts and groans add a whole new dimension.

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Everything these remarkable musicians play seems freshly minted, and their material is mostly the popular songs of the time, starting with a fast, swaggering trio version of ‘After You’ve Gone’. Sometimes, more than one take is included, and although the general shape of the piece remains the same, the solos are often fresh, and a change of tempo can make a dramatic difference. With the third CD there are some excellent joint compositions by Goodman and Hampton, preparing the way for the later sextet.