Although the cover gives the impression that this Hep compilation features clarinetists Benny Goodman and Stan Hasselgård together with tenor saxophonist Wardell Gray, the track-by-track credits listed within the booklet don't show Goodman and Hasselgård playing together at all. That problem aside, it is interesting to hear examples of Goodman's brief venture into bop, though on his own terms. "Benny's Bop" is a reworking of "Limehouse Blues"; it comes from a rare V-Disc session and features pianist Mary Lou Williams and Gray. This quintet is also heard on several tracks not documented in the fine Goodman discography Benny Goodman: Listen to His Legacy, including three takes of "Mary's Idea," two bop renditions of "Bye Bye Blues Bop" (a barely disguised "After You've Gone"), and "There's a Small Hotel." Hasselgård is the leader on two tracks from a 1948 broadcast including pianist Barbara Carroll and guitarist Chuck Wayne; it is a shame that this promising musician died so young before he had a chance to record very much. In spite of the difficulties that Gray suffered from racism while touring with the band, he makes significant contributions to both the small-group and full-orchestra recordings. The tracks by the larger ensembles range from innovative charts by Chico O'Farrill ("Undercurrent Blues") to the inept marriage of bop and pop in the rather stiffly performed "Trees." Although Goodman's recordings with Hasselgård (available on the Dragon CD At Click 1948) are of greater interest, these bop experiments are significant enough to appeal to Goodman fans.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden