Benny Goodman

Swing Favourites, Vol. 1: 1935-1936: Swing Me a Swing Song

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With RCA Victor having already issued their complete swing-era Benny Goodman archive on LP, cassette, and CD numerous times, it doesn't appear that Naxos' Goodman project is going to be as ambitious, for the first volume putters and skips around through eight sessions from the band's early years. Nevertheless, this is not a bad choice if you're looking for a single-disc selection of Goodman's earliest Victor big band sides, from his first sessions as the leader of a struggling swing band trying to stay afloat until a little over a year after his breakthrough at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles. There are plenty of famous swingers like "Stompin' at the Savoy," "Swingtime in the Rockies," "King Porter Stomp," and the original rendition of "Christopher Columbus," which is slower and more lumbering than the best-known versions and shorn of its "sing sing sing" first section. There are also a handful of vocals by Helen Ward and to close, the young Ella Fitzgerald doing a guest turn with the band on "Goodnight, My Love." And of course, perfectionist Goodman is always in impeccable form on his clarinet. The sound on the CD is a little wan and washed out in comparison with a few of the original 78s, not quite up to Naxos' high jazz standards. But even less-than-optimum Naxos sound is preferable to the abominations that came out of RCA in the CD era (RCA's earlier Goodman reissues on LP are better).

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