Benny Goodman 70th Anniversary Concert at Carnegie Hall, January 16, 2008
A major part of the original concert was trumpeter Harry James. Cornetist John McLeod was a good substitutehe is a great trumpeter, evincing power of the Harry James variety, and he also played some animated mute later in the night. His other main role, as arranger, would obviously be critical to the success or otherwise of the night, given that adding "stings" to normally non-orchestral music can cause significant grief for listeners! (An example was the use of string arrangements by Elton John on a tour in the 1980s). But not in this case: the arrangements were clever and subtle, sliding around and under the music in the foreground, at times actually being the music in the foreground, just as a true arrangement of a "bed" of strings should be.
The second half of the concert began with the Goodman opening radio theme "Let's Dance," which we were told was a 1930s re-arrangement of composer Weber's "Invitation To The Dance." Pioneer electric guitarist Charlie Christian was name-checked for the next number (that he wrote during his tenure in Goodman's sextet, from 1939-1941) "Airmail Special." A riffarama. The band called this performance "Email Special!"
Peggy Lee in 1941), but whose date of cutting just may have served to allow arranger McLeod to "have some fun with it," as he put it after the concert.
One of the smoothest tunes around is "Frenesi"Ray Charles played the tune as did Artie Shaw. John McLeod introduced it by saying that Benny Goodman did record it, and that he had recently discovered this (I found the record once myself on an EP). The arrangement was appropriately lush, and it is easy to see that the number must be a regular staple of the Champagne Orchestra's repertoire. Following Frenesi was a good recreation of the Goodman baroque specialty "Bach Goes To Town," a swing take on Bach. It was a great sight to see a front line of a clarinetist, a trumpeter and a bass clarinetist playing this tune. "And The Angels Sing," a great later release by Goodman was the penultimate number, featuring Melissa Stylianou and probably DeAngelis' best solo, and finally "After You've Gone."
The encore was a powerful version of the classic "Sing Sing Sing," begun in semi-darkness. The pianist came up with a part re-creation of the epic solo moment of pianist Jess Stacy, captured on mic in 1938 by, as legend has it, Benny Goodman moving the mic closer to the pianist. This was one of the moments of the night that reached back into the past to maybe just make you think you there on that day in 1938.