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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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BENNY GOODMAN

AFRS Benny Goodman
Shows: Volume 14

SOUNDS OF YESTER
YEAR DSOY895

 

 

Show 33 (17 February 1947) and Show 34 (24 February 1947)
Benny Goodman and his Orchestra, Sextet and Sextet Old
with Victor Borge (piano and comedy) and guest stars Quentin Reynolds, Benay Venuta and Ralph Edwards

Show Thirty-three, 17 February 1947
Guests: Quentin Reynolds and Benay Venuta
Introduction [1:14]
Clair de lune [3:08]
Comedy [1:39]
Way down yonder in New Orleans [2:38]
It takes Time [2:42]
Comedy [5:12]
St Louis Blues [3:04]
Warsaw Concerto (excerpt) [3:44]
Rodgers and Hart Medley [5:35]
Red Horse Boogie Woogie (incomplete) [2:01]
 
Show Thirty-four, 24 February 1947
Guest: Ralph Edwards
Introduction [0:28]
Comedy [4:07]
Canadian Capers [3:30]
Medley [4:08]
Maybe you'll be there [2:21]
Comedy [7:03]
I know that you know [2:53]
Warsaw Concerto (excerpt) [4:12]
Red Horse Boogie Woogie (incomplete) [2:20]
 
Personnel - Orchestra
Benny Goodman - Clarinet 
Frank Beach, John Best, Nate Kazebier, Dick Mains, Dale Pierce, George Seaberg, George Wendt, Zake Zachary - Trumpets 
Lou McGarity, Tommey Pederson, Red Ballard, Bill Schaefer, Ray Sims - Trombones 
Skeets Herfurt, Heinie Beau, Gus Bivona - Alto saxes 
Babe Russin, Jack Chaney, Zoot Sims - Tenor saxes 
Chuck Gentry - Bass sax 
Jess Stacy - Piano 
Alan Reus - Guitar 
Harry Babasin - Bass 
Tommy Romersa - Drums 
Johnny White - Vibes 
Benay Venuta (programme 33), Jeanie McKeon (programme 34) - Vocals 

Personnel - Sextet
Benny Goodman - Clarinet 
Jess Stacy - Piano 
Harry Babasin - Bass 
Alan Reuss - Guitar 
Johnny White - Vibes 
Tommy Romersa - Drums
 
Personnel - Sextet Old:
Benny Goodman - Clarinet 
Jess Stacy - Piano 
Harry Babasin - Bass 
Barney Kessel - Guitar 
Johnny White - Vibes 
Louis Bellson - Drums


It's necessary to begin with a caveat about the amount of Benny Goodman that you actually get on this CD, as was the case with Volume 7, where Bert Thompson thought a similar warning necessary (DSOY852 - review). In this instance, not only is much of the time taken up with Victor Borge (in both shows) and other guests, we even have two overlapping musical items: on Show 33 there's an excerpt from Richard Addinsell's Warsaw Concerto and the `whole' concerto is played on Show 34, while a short version of Red Horse Boogie Woogie ends both shows. Actually, though the CD bills these programmes as the Benny Goodman Show, the announcer at beginning and end gives equal credit to Victor Borge.

Humour dates very badly - try listening to an old ITMA show; even if, like me, you remember how funny it once seemed, you won't think so now. There are, of course, exceptions: the Goon Show and Dad's Army spring to mind. Early Victor Borge doesn't cut it any more, though; mildly funny is the best that I can muster.

Nor is his playing of Clair de lune (track 2) or the abridged Warsaw Concerto (tr.8) special enough to be worth a recommendation and the wavery piano sound reminds us of the age and provenance of these recordings more than the other tracks.

More `comedy' on track 3 is followed (finally) by Benny Goodman in Way down yonder in New Orleans (tr.4) and It takes Time (tr.5), with vocals in the latter in laid-back style by Benny Goodman himself. Those are worth resurrecting, as also are St Louis Blues (tr.7), the Rodgers and Hart medley (tr.9, with vocals from Benay Venuta) and the final sign-out track of Red Horse Boogie Woogie, a shortened version of which apparently ended each of these programmes.

The Rodgers and Hart medley is a bit saccharine with a crooning chorus and you won't be too surprised that Benay Venuta's name is forgotten - she's competent but nothing special. It's very enjoyable late-night music but it's not the sort of thing that we listen to Benny Goodman for.

Show 34 is even more dated - no-one now remembers Ralph Edwards and in jokes about the radio show which he used to preside over go for nothing. The long track 16 (over seven minutes) is particularly tedious. On the plus side, the programme features Benny Goodman's

orchestra or sextet in Canadian Capers (tr.13, with a welcome appearance by Goodman himself on clarinet), Maybe you'll be there (tr.15, with vocals by Jeannie McKeon) and I'll know that you know (tr.17).

Victor Borge plays a medley of show tunes on track 14 with orchestral backing but the sound of the piano is, if anything, even more clangorous, wavery and dated than on the earlier show. The orchestral sound on this track, too, requires a considerable degree of tolerance, though generally the sound is bearable in both programmes.

Show 34 also features a slightly longer version of the Warsaw Concerto (tr.18), but even that is truncated to about half length - the whole work normally runs to over eight minutes. A good way to obtain the whole work is in a performance by Martin Roscoe, the BBC Philharmonic and Rumon Gamba, on an inexpensive 2-CD set entitled British Film Classics, at budget price on the Chandos Bear Essentials label: CHAN241-12. If you want the parent album from which it's taken, that's The Film Music of Richard Addinsell on Chandos CHAN10046: for both see my January 2012/2 Download Roundup.

Even if you think Victor Borge funny after all these years, though there's nothing here remotely in the same league as his phonetic punctuation gag - the nearest thing is the joke piano on Show 34 (tr.12) - most prospective buyers will probably expect more of what it says most prominently on the label, the Benny Goodman Orchestra and Sextet, than is actually the case. They will have reason to be pleased with about half the CD but the rest is a bit like eating too much sweet and sticky toffee.

Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that more than half the personnel of the Orchestra and Sextet had changed in the interim between late 1946 and early 1947. Like all such ensembles, the Goodman Orchestra was largely a pick-up group, but the standard was always high and that's true here, though most of the distinguished names that Bert Thompson mentions in reviewing Volume 7 were absent on these occasions.

Any Benny Goodman fans who have not yet obtained the collection on Nimbus Retrospective RTS4144 - see review by Pierre Giroux and my January 2012/2 Download Roundup - should make that a greater priority than these Sounds of Yester Year releases. It's available on two CDs post free for not much more than the single AFRS CD, direct from MusicWeb - here.

There's another recommendable 2-CD collection on Avid AMSC1004 - for all Tony Augarde's reservations - review - it's more recommendable than these AFRS shows. I recommended an Amazon download of another Avid 2-disc album of Goodman recordings from 1933 to 1952 (AV864, Essential Benny Goodman), in my September 2012/1 Download Roundup: 2« hours of mostly vintage Goodman in the kind of repertoire that we associate with him.
Some of the records which were made during and just after WWII for the American forces are invaluable but these Radio Shows, also recorded to entertain a military audience, are much more run of the mill. The CD is well worth having for the sake of the Goodman items and completists will want those items, but there's not enough of them for an outright recommendation. For my own listening I shall probably rip the disc and keep only the tracks which actually feature Benny Goodman.

Brian Wilson

Worth having for Goodman completists but there's a lot of extraneous material to wade through.



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