Benny Goodman this week. You can’t really do any history of Jazz without including Benny Goodman as one of the foundations from which Jazz grew and evolved. Goodman was part of a movement that took “dance music” and gave it the proverbial long pants. Dubbed The King Of Swing, Goodman was probably one of the most recognizable household names in Modern Popular music at the time, but by no means the only one. Goodman’s contribution is significant on a lot of levels – taking the big band context and paring it down to a small group setting. If you want to use the Classical Music analogy (as many have), think of the Big Band as the Symphony Orchestra and the small group and the Chamber ensemble and it makes perfect sense. But also significant was how much Benny Goodman was involved in breaking the color barrier in mainstream music with artists like Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson and Charlie Christian along with arrangers like Fletcher Henderson taking ranks along their White counterparts.
This 1937 broadcast, part of the weekly series The Camel Caravan comes roughly two months before his groundbreaking Carnegie Hall Concert in January of 1938 – or what became known as Jazz’ Coming Out Party.
The Camel Caravan series was significant as it brought Swing to America on a coast-to-coast basis, via CBS Radio and sponsored by Camel Cigarettes. It’s also interesting to note that Camel was also responsible for The Camel Rock n’ Roll Dance Party in the 1950s with Alan Freed. So, as much as a stigma exists about cigarettes and cigarette advertising, the historic context around support of groundbreaking musical movements is undeniable – and you just can’t get around it. So if it raises hackles, skip past the offending bits and stick with the music. You can’t rewrite history, tempting though it may be at times.
The bottom line – Benny Goodman represented a major leap forward in the evolution of Jazz, and here is a reminder why.