WINTER NEWSLETTER A CENTENNIAL TRIBUTE TO BENNY GOODMAN ‘THE KING OF SWING’ …who would have been 100 this year!
Lionel Hampton with Benny Goodman
Jo Stevenson at The Swallows
Helen Ward & Benny Goodman
Featuring Jo Stevenson, reeds; John Scurry, guitar; Kim Harris, piano; Andy Swann, drums; and Mark Elton, bass. Sunday June 14, 2009 @ The Bentleigh Club, Yawla Street, Bentleigh. Midday for 12.30pm start. I hope you will be as excited as I am at the prospect of celebrating the birth of Benny Goodman, one of the greatest jazz clarinetists in history, for our 2009 Winter jazz luncheon. In my opinion there is no reed player in Australia better suited to pay tribute to him than the brilliant and inventive Melbourne clarinetist Jo Stevenson. I‟m absolutely delighted that Jo has agreed to pay homage to BG, and he has selected an all-star line-up of Melbourne musicians to form a fabulous Quintet for this very special event. Benny Goodman, The King of Swing, was born in Chicago in May 1909 and died in 1986 at the age of 77 in the New York Clinic [I know this, because an American friend of mine was Director of Nursing there at the time]. Many stories have abounded regarding Benny Goodman, his idiosyncrasies and controversial behaviour, but no-one can deny that he was a genius and one of the greatest jazz musicians in history. He changed the face of popular music in America in the 1930s and „40s and his music has never dated; it is as
exciting, fresh and beautiful today as when it was the popular music of the day. I quote here from Time/Life‟s Giants of Jazz……… “Of the millions of words that have been written about Benny Goodman, few have succeeded in categorizing him. Like a true original in any field, Goodman, a child prodigy who became the world‟s most celebrated clarinet performer, does not fit into any convenient box. Some things can safely be said of him. He is certainly one of the most expert practitioners in the history of his difficult and demanding instrument, a perfectionist, whose technical skill has been honed by lifelong, unremitting practice. His ability to sound and shape any note the clarinet can encompass is a byword among musicians. „When you first heard the sound‟, says trumpeter Pee Wee Irwin, „you knew that that was they way the instrument was supposed to sound.‟ As the intuitive jazz musician, he has shown an outstanding ability to assimilate not so much the styles, as the feelings behind the styles of other musicians, and to blend the best of those feelings into a style distinctly and forever his own. Throughout his career, moreover, he employed his skill and style with grace and wit and an astonishing creativity, never improvising a passage the same way twice and even after playing it a hundred times responding the next time with interest and excitement. He was a biting, challenging soloist, always in perfect phase with the music, improvising extended phrases with cool assurance at top speed, showing himself in some ways to be the world‟s champion extemporaneous composer. „Sure he had characteristic phrases and transitional devices‟ said pianist John Bunch, „but he was as inventive a musician as there was playing in his day. Hardly a concert went by that he didn‟t surprise us all with some twist or diversion he‟d never done before.‟ But classifying Goodman only as a genius of the jazz solo is not satisfactory either. What of Goodman the King of Swing, Goodman the chamber jazz performer par excellence, Goodman the classical artist? The trouble with Goodman is that he burst the confines of any pigeonhole.” He always had brilliant musicians in his famous small groups and so has Jo Stevenson. The superb Quintet he has chosen for this Centennial Tribute will certainly do justice to Benny‟s dateless and magnificent music.
Some of Goodman‟s classic tunes are Airmail Special, Body & Soul, Nagasaki, Indiana, Moonglow, Dinah, The World is Waiting for the Sunrise, All I Do the Whole Day Through is Dream of You, Don‟t Be That Way, Stompin‟ at the Savoy, Opus 1 and On the Sunny Side of the Street. We can look forward to hearing some, if not all of these tunes on June 14th . Goodman apparently enjoyed playing in small groups rather than his big bands, and it is these that have gone down in history, with the likes of Teddy Wilson, Gene Krupa, and Charlie Christian accompanying him in so many memorable sessions. The musicians who will be performing for our Goodman tribute with clarinetist Jo Stevenson on June 14th are all outstanding Melbourne jazz musicians, the lyrical pianist Kim Harris; virtuoso guitarist John Scurry; the charistmatic Andy Swann on drums, [recently in the „Wicked‟ band at the Regent Theatre] and one of the most dynamic bassists in the business, Mark Elton! The Goodman repertoire is in safe hands with this great and dynamic line-up. Luncheon tickets $59 each, payable by credit card on 9686 2844, or cheque made payable to Jazz Australia and sent to Box 3049, Sth Melbourne 3205. Please note that seating will be arranged in order of bookings! OTHER ITEMS OF INTEREST Stevenson’s Rockets at The Emerald Hotel, 415 Clarendon Street, South Melbourne every Sunday 7pm – 10pm Bookings….9690 4719 Ian Smith’s [Fabulous] Riverwalk Trio at The Amora Hotel, every Sunday 649 Bridge Rd., Richmond 12.30pm – 3.30pm Bookings 9246 1200 Carol Ralph & her Melbourne Jazz Trio at Dizzys, Saturday May 16th 381 Burnley Street, Richmond 9428 1233 Show $20 Dinner available. I have recently sold my house in South Melbourne and will be moving in July, not sure where yet. However I will try and keep our seasonal Jazz Australia Luncheons going for as long as special events continue to present themselves, and audiences continue to appreciate them! I look forward to seeing you again soon,