Tributes to jazz icons such as Benny Goodman can be double-edged swords, particularly if the band is using some of the same charts as the artist whom they are honoring. This is the case with the BBC Big Band, as they play 14 songs from the extensive Goodman library, with either Ken Peplowski (a veteran of Goodman's final band who also assumes his role as the clarinet soloist) or, on a few tracks, Barry Forgie serving as musical director. Fortunately, Peplowski's outstanding solos and his ability to get the most out of this very well rehearsed large ensemble assure that the essence of these time tested charts comes through. Peplowski was wise to mix in a few lesser known works, such as Hoagy Carmichael's lyrical "Ballad in Blue" and Tom Satterfield's easygoing "Restless," both of which were arranged by Spud Murphy for Goodman in the mid-1930s. But swing fans will naturally gravitate to the most familiar songs to truly evaluate the orchestra. Rodgers & Hart's "Blue Room," arranged by Fletcher Henderson, is a snappy foot patting miniature, and "Stompin' at the Savoy" has a catchy call and response between Peplowski and vibraphonist Anthony Kerr in a swinging performance. Forgie's transcription of the famous "Sing, Sing, Sing" enables the orchestra to nearly match the energy and excitement caused by the famous 1938 Carnegie Hall concert, even though swing fans already know what is coming; Peplowski's adventurous solo wraps it up with a flourish. While it would be unfair to compare these tracks to Benny Goodman's original records, the BBC Orchestra led by Ken Peplowski would get any audience up and dancing and keep them smiling throughout the evening.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden