Jazz

Benny Goodman: “Moonglow”

Moonglow is beautiful. If anyone knows the name of the second song on this clip, please let me know.

Benny Goodman is, of course, one of the giants. As important as his band leadership and clarinet playing was his efforts to integrate jazz, according to About Jazz:

Benny Goodman, a preeminent white bandleader and clarinetist, was the first to hire a black musician to be part of his ensemble. In 1935 he made pianist Teddy Wilson a member of his trio. A year later, he added vibraphonist Lionel Hampton to the lineup, which also included drummer Gene Krupa. These steps helped push for racial integration in jazz, which was previously not only taboo, but even illegal in some states.

Goodman used his fame to spread appreciation for black music. In the 1920s and 30s, many of the orchestras that marketed themselves as jazz bands consisted only of white musicians, and played a mawkish style of music that only drew sparingly from the music that black jazz bands were playing. In 1934, when Goodman began a weekly show on NBC radio called “Let’s Dance,” he bought arrangements by Fletcher Henderson, a prominent black bandleader. His thrilling radio performances of Henderson’s music brought awareness of the jazz of black musicians to a broad and mainly white audience.e

Here is Sing Sing Sing featuring the great Krupa, who would have been a great rock drummer (though jazz drummers probably don’t think that’s a compliment). Stompin’ the Savoy and I Just Want to be Happy are from a Dumont Network television show and Don’t be that Way is terrific. Finally, these two  pieces, Medley No. 1 and Medley No. 2, are fascinating, especially the second.

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Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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