Sunday, October 24, 2004


The Hotel Eden, Joseph CornellPosted by Hello

The original work by Cornell, patron saint of Queens, is in the National Gallery of Canada.

Benny Goodman Sextet, Rachel's Dream.

The swing era was dying. Soon all the big bands would go to smash--Gene Krupa's, Tommy Dorsey's, even Goodman's.

The war had done its part (musicians were conscripted, gas & rubber rationing hurt touring), as did a recording ban. And the singers had taken over. In the '30s, the singer was often a girl standing on a corner of the stage, sometimes not coming in until the final chorus. By '45, the singers--Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como--ruled the stage and the songs, absolutely.

And swing was getting stale: Much of it was generic pop music with vague jazz implications.
The improvisation had been steamed out, the beat regulated. It had devolved from Fletcher Henderson to Goodman to Dorsey to Glenn Miller (with Lawrence Welk being the endstop).

But Goodman kept going--even attempting bebop in the late '40s. Throughout his career, at his fame's height, he had always kept a 'chamber' group for his more adventurous work: first a trio with Teddy Wilson and Krupa, then then a sextet featuring vibraphonist Lionel Hampton and genius guitarist Charlie Christian.

"Rachel's Dream" comes from a May 7, 1945 session with Wilson on piano and Red Norvo on vibraphone. Along with Hampton, Norvo pioneered and defined the vibraphone. The rest of the Sextet was Morey Feld (d), Slam Stewart (b) and Mike Bryan (guitar). "Rachel's" can be found on the Goodman compilation that came out as part of the Ken Burns Jazz series.

Norvo is best heard on an ASV compilation Knockin' On Wood, which features another great track from this session, "Slipped Disc."

An exhaustive account of swing is Gunther Schuller's The Swing Era, part two of an alleged jazz history trilogy. "Early Jazz" is the initial volume. It has been 15 years, and still no sign of the last book.

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