Sunday, May 26, 2013
This is from the film The Benny Goodman Story. They get essentially everybody important from the 1938 band that played the Carnegie Hall concert, Gene Krupa, Harry James, Ziggy Elfman and even Hymie Scherzer! But there's no Benny. He was played (very blandly) by Steve Allen. This scene is at the end of the film where there's some kind of resolution with Donna Reed. She arrives and then the concert is a success. Seriously, this film is pretty not good. At one point, they wheel out somebody who's supposed to be Fletcher Henderson, but is indeed not. He's just some bad actor. But the music is pretty excellent throughout. Benny was not a laudable human being but he was a superior musician. Except for a few random tunes from the era, this was my introduction to swing music. It's funny, everything else doesn't really measure up in terms of sheer power. Sure, as far as big bands go, Duke Ellington had wonderful artistry, Glenn Miller had pop appeal and Count Basie had everything in between, but this tune frightened people for years. The first time I heard it, it sounded truly evil. I have played this tune countless times more or less accurately in numerous big bands and it has always been the highlight of the evening.
This version is a recreation of the actual performance. You can find the real recording on YouTube. It's over 13 minutes long. There's a really nice piano solo near the end. Apparently, the pianist got lost and just decided to play something pretty since it was just him and Gene Krupa. The result is pretty stunning. And then you get the great end chorus which qualifies as one of the best moments in music. OK, so I make pop music now, but trying to recreate something akin to this is my goal. Someday, it might happen.
Posted by Igor Keller