Benny Goodman's 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert
Table of Contents Preface………………………………………………………………………..vi Chapter 1: Before the concert………………………………………………...1 Chapter 2: “Twenty Years of Jazz”…………………………………………23 Chapter 3: The jam session………………………………………………….68 Chapter 4: The small group performances…………………………………..94 Chapter 5: The big band: arrangements of popular songs………………….145 Chapter 6: The big band: riff-based arrangements…………………………193 Chapter 7: Overview and postscript………………………………………...233 Appendix……………………………………………………………………253 Bibliography………………………………………………………………...255
Preface: Source Materials
The reader should know that the understanding of this text relies upon familiarity with both the Carnegie Hall concert recording and many other Benny Goodman recordings. Therefore, I provide the following information to facilitate acquisition of such materials. Specific information on recordings used in the following work is located in the Appendix, “Recommended Recordings,” located on page 236. The Carnegie Hall concert recording has recently been produced as a two-compact disc set by Columbia Masterworks, under the title “The Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert.” It was released 1999 as a re-master of the original 1950 LPs and is widely available. Its liner notes include the original Irving Kolodin-penned program notes from 1938, distributed at the concert, as well as extra notes from Kolodin (1950), Turk van Lake (1999), a guitarist who performed with Goodman in the 1960s, and Phil Schaap (1999), who oversaw the recording’s re-master. The liner notes also feature selected photocopies from the original program as well as photographs. Prior to this 1999 re- master, no CD version was available, to the best of my knowledge. In 2006 Jasmine Records produced another re-master of the original LP. This recording, also available on CD, does little to improve upon the 1999 re-master and is not recommended. It eliminates some of the scratching from the original LP but the recording’s depth is adversely affected. Similar to the 1999 re-master, the Jasmine Records re-master preserves the original performance and thus does not reproduce cuts made for the original 1950 LPs. However, it does not include Goodman’s recorded introductions, found first on the 1950 LP and preserved on the 1999 re-master. The original 1950 LPs are available from private sellers. These LPs feature truncated versions of several performances from the concert and thus are useful for comparison to the re-masters, which restore all performances. However, Schaap’s re-master notes indicate exactly where the original cuts were made. Goodman’s personal introductions are originally located on these LPs, though they are also reproduced on the re-masters. These 1950 LPs were the first commercially available recordings produced from the concert, which previously had only existed in master tapes and held by Goodman himself.
The original program is available in photocopied form from the Carnegie Hall Archives. The archives were established in 1986, so all artifacts were donated or procured from outside sources. Therefore, the Archive has only the program available and no other documents from the 1938 concert. The concert program does not exactly match the concert performance, as several songs were added or removed after the program was printed. A large repository of Goodman-related items is available at the Benny Goodman Papers at Yale University. The most prominent feature of this archive is a substantial number of scores and parts, written in the original arranger’s hand. These are cited in the following work as “MSS 53.” Some of these parts may have been in use at the concert, though it is impossible to tell which ones. However, a significant portion of the written parts exactly match the performances from the concert, with the exception of improvised solos. The remainder of the surviving Goodman orchestra scores and parts is housed at the New York Public Library. Parts are available in photocopied form from Yale to current performing organizations (namely big bands interested in performing the original arrangements) for a fee, and thus are widely distributed. Also included at the Yale archive are photographs and ledgers, though few are specifically from the 1938 concert. The best of these photographs are widely reproduced in biographies of Goodman and his associates.
Chapter 1: Before the Concert
On January 16 th , 1938, Benny Goodman became one of the first bandleaders to perform jazz in a venue traditionally populated by art-music listeners: Carnegie Hall. Although this concert is often acknowledged as a seminal event in the history of popular music, its impact is often misinterpreted. Most historians reduce the importance of the concert to a mark of racial progress. However, the reduction of the concert to a mere symbol misrepresents Goodman and the other players as participants in the first such event, which is untrue. Furthermore, portraying the concert as a racial symbol downplays the musical content of the program. Through further investigation, the concert’s importance is revealed to lie not simply in the color of the players’ skin, but in the racial collaboration of musical style and arrangement as well as the superior performances heard at the event. Goodman’s concert was presented to a musical world that treated jazz in an enormously different manner than would the world of just a decade later. Goodman, who formulated his first band in 1934, played to an audience to whom the very concept of a jazz concert was foreign. While it is now commonplace for jazz fans to sit and listen to their favorite groups, virtually all bands in the 1930s played music for dancing, which
would have included fox trots, waltzes, and the like. Even the best jazz bands prior to 1935 needed to play traditional ballroom dance numbers in addition to hot jazz in order to stay employed in the music world. In general, jazz was considered functional music, not an artistic medium. It was historically played by African-Americans, who, perceived as second-class citizens, were seen as unfit for the concert hall. Jazz players and jazz listeners were casual and informal, putting their style at odds with that of the traditional concertgoer. 1 Therefore, prior to 1938, jazz concerts numbered few. For these reasons, it is not surprising that Benny Goodman and his band aimed for neither racial integration nor musical innovation during their formative pre-Carnegie Hall concert years. As a group, their main goal was to provide high-quality music for dancers. Although they preferred to play hot jazz, their sets were necessarily interspersed with traditional dance tunes. With the goal of high-quality dance music in mind, the Goodman orchestra embarked on their first cross-country tour in 1935. The group spent much of the tour playing only the ballroom dance numbers, since most of the Midwest wanted to hear only traditional dance music, not hot jazz. However, the final stop on the tour was the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles, where the Goodman band and their hot music was welcomed. While most of the Palomar Ballroom attendees intended on dancing for Goodman’s performance, a significant number chose to listen rather than dance once Goodman began playing his hot charts. 2 From the Palomar event evening onward, it became acceptable to listen rather than dance. Goodman and other bandleaders observed
1 Scott DeVeaux gives an excellent description of pre-swing-era concert expectations in his article, “The Emergence of the jazz concert, 1935-1945” (American Music [Spring 1989], p. 6-29). 2 Goodman recounts in Ross Firestone’s book that “from the moment I kicked them off [the boys] dug in with some of the best playing I’d heard since we left New York…To our complete amazement, half of the crowd stopped dancing and came surging around the stand.” Ross Firestone, Swing swing swing: the life and times of Benny Goodman (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1993), p.149.
growing crowds of people, usually young men, clustered around the stage, listening intently to the music and cheering their favorite soloists. 3
The Palomar Ballroom event indicated that jazz was changing from a functional dance-based style to one with accepted artistic merit. However, a seated concert devoted entirely to jazz remained a risky venture. Carnegie Hall in particular was an unusual location for such an uncertain endeavor because it was primarily a venue for European- style art music, not the least of which included the offerings of the New York Philharmonic. Its audience differed from swing‘s in several key ways: Carnegie Hall patrons were normally white, adult, and members of the upper class, while swing appealed generally to teenagers and college students of both races. Since a jazz concert had never been presented at Carnegie Hall, one might question who would attend such an event: Carnegie Hall's normal patrons, or swing's usual audience? 4
Although a jazz concert had never been presented at Carnegie Hall, several jazz concerts in other venues did precede the Goodman performance. The most famous is the 1924 concert given by Paul Whiteman at Aeolian Hall, which featured not only Whiteman's own brand of genteel symphonic jazz, but also the premiere of Gershwin's “Rhapsody in Blue.” Clearly, Whiteman's offering did not represent traditional jazz, but rather represented Whiteman's perceived version of jazz’s possibilities. This important
3 Descriptions of the Palomar Ballroom engagement are many. Ken Burns offers a view of it in episode 5 (“Swing: Pure Pleasure”) of his documentary series Jazz (PBS Home Video, 2001). Ross Firestone also provides a comprehensive description in his book, Swing swing swing: the life and times of Benny Goodman (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1993), as does James Lincoln Collier in Benny Goodman and the Swing Era (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989). Goodman himself recalls the event in his autobiography written with Irving Kolodin, The Kingdom of Swing (New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1939). 4 See page 10 for the concert’s demographic.
event is discussed in more detail in chapter 2. In addition to Whiteman's concert, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington performed separate concerts in Europe, though never in the United States, where they were most popular. Such events indicate that Americans were less likely to accept even a star performer in the concert hall if he was black. The exception occurs in 1928, when W.C. Handy presented a concert in Carnegie Hall. This event was billed as an “evolution of black music,” portraying a progression, similar to Whiteman's concert. Handy’s concert also included a symphonic work based on American themes, including blues songs, entitled “Yamekraw: a Negro Rhapsody,” composed by James P. Johnson and orchestrated by William Grant Still. 5 However, Handy's music was considered blues, not jazz. The early jazz concert experiments indicate that the concept of jazz as art music was one unlikely to be accepted by 1930s audiences. Even as patrons stopped dancing and began listening, jazz remained a popular style, not an artistic one. John Hammond indicates this in his program notes to the December 1938 Carnegie Hall concert, “From Spirituals to Swing,” a concert that Hammond modeled after the Goodman concert. He notes that “nobody would be more incredulous upon hearing that this [jazz] is art than the throngs of jitterbugs and the hot musicians themselves.” 6 Interestingly, Hammond includes jazz musicians as well as jazz listeners in his statement. As a promoter of many of the most popular performers from the swing era, Hammond would have been aware of the musicians’ artistic visions, and it is clear in this quote that he believed that hot musicians did not consider their music “art.” Several factors contributed to the prevailing
5 For more information on “Yamekraw,” see John Howland, Ellington Uptown: Duke Ellington, James P. Johnson, and the birth of concert jazz (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2009). 6 James Dugan and John Hammond, “From Spirituals to Swing,” program notes, p. 5.
view. Jazz musicians and patrons were generally separated from classical music, which was considered the traditional art music, by their modes of performance and listening. Jazz musicians improvised; some did not read music. The musicians were also casual, matching the open-ended structures of the pieces they performed. 7 Classical pieces, on the other hand, were carefully composed and rehearsed, with the expectation of perfection in performance. When listening to a classical piece, the audience dressed formally, sat politely, and clapped at the end of a piece only; jazz audiences stood, danced, listened while they ate, and often applauded in the middle of a song, over the musicians' playing, as well as at the end. In particular, the compositional process may have been the biggest difference between jazz and classical music. In a classical piece, each note is given thought and weight by the composer, while in an improvisational solo, the process of performing and composing happens almost simultaneously, thereby challenging the idea of composition as a painstaking, exacting process. To complicate the problem of presenting a non-traditional music style in a venue devoted to the most traditional types of music, swing came in not one distinct style, but two varieties: hot and sweet (or genteel). The two types of swing differed significantly. Hot music was generally fast, featured improvisation, and was often performed by smaller groups to facilitate the use of open-ended arrangements. Sweet music was slower, designed for traditional ballroom dancing, and featured very structured arrangements with little improvisation. This disparity made it less likely for swing to be accepted as an art, since the two styles were in such opposition and fans of one style
7 DeVeaux, p.7.
generally disliked the other style. 8 If even the biggest fans could not agree on the artistic merit of swing as a whole, the greater public was even less likely to consider the music art. Furthermore, anyone championing improvisation as a reason why jazz should be an art was forced to confront the sweet style of swing, which was clearly associated with hot jazz but featured little improvisation. In addition, both styles of swing hold an undesirable place in the history of jazz. A commonly-held critical belief contends that swing is not jazz, primarily because it is considered too commercialized. Critics believed that all swing, particularly the sweet variety, lacked a significant amount of improvisation, which was then and is still seen as the distinguishing feature of jazz. Since sweet jazz was wildly popular, critics contended that the music had strayed too far from the roots of New Orleans style jazz in an effort to win fans. Thus, all popular bands became suspected of commercialization. Goodman was particularly plagued by the outcry against commercialization, since his band was the most commercially successful of the 1930s. However, Goodman originally formed his group with the idea that they would break from formal commercial dance music and play true jazz, which, in his opinion, was primarily an improvised music. In fact, in 1935, when they performed at Palomar, the audience largely saw Goodman’s improvised music as an alternative to commercial music. 9 Unlike Paul Whiteman, the biggest commercial success of the previous decade, Goodman did not attempt to refine jazz by using strings or overly
8 Dodge notes that though classical music is varied, it is always considered art, but while swing is varied, it is difficult to accept both types as art. Roger Pryor Dodge, Hot jazz and jazz dance : Roger Pryor Dodge collected writings, 1929-1964 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 139. 9 Krupa is quoted as having chastised Goodman for performing traditional dance music on the first tour: “Look, Benny, I'm making $85 a week with you and if you're going commercial I might as well go back to Buddy Rogers and make $125 a week. Let's stick to your original idea even if we go under.” Bruce Klauber, World of Gene Krupa: that legendary drummin’ man (Ventura, CA: Pathfinder Publishing, 1990), p. 26.
structured arrangements, which were a sign of attachment to older European styles. 10
Goodman also featured small groups that played in a mainly improvised style, which were well-respected by critics and fans alike. Although Goodman broke from the style of the traditional dance band, the majority of his audience members were dancers, and he performed mostly at dance venues. When playing for dancers, certain guidelines ruled the music. Firstly, dancers could not handle excessively fast tempos for long periods of time. The ideal variety of tempos mixed ballads and faster charts with mid-tempo pieces. Dancers also preferred short solos, which were easier to dance to. However, Goodman needed to consider none of these criteria when programming a concert. Goodman may have wanted to take the opportunity to show his orchestra’s full abilities. In a concert setting, Goodman was free to program pieces that showcased long sections of improvisation, which was in accordance with the style of music he preferred. This freedom may have contributed to Goodman’s willingness to attempt a jazz concert when approached with the idea. However, Goodman was unconvinced of the event’s chances for success. The Carnegie Hall concert was originally the idea of Wynn Nathanson, who was a publicist with the agency that handled the Goodman orchestra’s “Camel Caravan” radio broadcasts. 11 Nathanson formulated the idea after connecting the
10 Lewis Erenberg, Swingin’ the dream: big band jazz and the rebirth of American culture (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998), p. 65-66. Erenberg also notes that historians dismiss swing in general as commercialization of jazz and therefore miss how vital swing was, but he counters this view not with music but by pointing out the racial and cultural significance of swing (p. 69). 11 Descriptions of the Carnegie Hall concert and the events leading up to it abound, but Ross Firestone’s chapter in his above-noted book is the most comprehensive, though it lacks significant details and does not include citations. Firestone’s chapter owes a considerable debt to James Lincoln Collier’s book, Benny Goodman and the Swing Era (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989).
“King of Jazz,” Paul Whiteman, with Goodman, who had become known as the “King of Swing.” He imagined that Goodman’s concert could be as successful as Whiteman’s. Nathanson also may have been inspired by the “Camel Caravan” broadcasts, which were radio programs originally conceived as in-home opportunities for dancing, but grew to include non-dancing listeners. However, when Nathanson approached Goodman with the idea for the concert, Goodman expressed severe doubts, and jokingly questioned Nathanson’s mental capacity. Goodman knew that Carnegie had never held a jazz concert—the hall primarily presented classical music. Furthermore, Goodman was apprehensive because he felt the audience should be able to choose to listen or dance, not be restricted to their seats. 12 However, he was convinced in part by the encouragement of Irving Kolodin. Kolodin, working for the New York Times, reviewed classical concerts, so he would have known well what would please a Carnegie audience. 13 Though Goodman agreed to present the concert, he was still quite nervous about connecting with the audience. He was accustomed to performing for groups of dancers, and had never before performed a concert in which the audience sat quietly. Imagining that such an audience would be stuffy, he asked the comedienne Beatrice Lillie to tell jokes before the band performed to ease the mood. She declined. 14
Resigned to presenting an event wholly on the merits of the band, Goodman scheduled the concert for January 16, 1938. The concert was advertised in the Sunday
12 Firestone, p. 208. 13 Goodman and Kolodin shared a close relationship, even penning a book together, The Kingdom of Swing, as noted on p. 2, n. 3. 14 Kolodin, liner notes to The famous 1938 Carnegie Hall jazz concert (Columbia/Legacy, C2K 65143: 1999), p. 12. Sol Hurok, the concert's promoter, was against inviting Lillie, noting that it would reduce the dignity of the event. Barnett Singer, “How did Benny Goodman get to Carnegie Hall?” American History (April 1, 2001). Elibrary.com.
papers along with the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, and the London Intimate Opera Company as a “Musical Event of the Day.” 15 By including the swing event with traditional art music, the paper’s editors showed that jazz was transitioning from a popular music to an art. The concert was publicized by Sol Hurok, who, as a promoter for classical musicians, would well know how to relate to an audience attending a Carnegie concert. He was also well known for breaking barriers in music, having promoted the career of one of the first widely-accepted black classical singers, Marian Anderson. 16 He would have been a natural choice to promote an unusual concert. He had misgivings about the concert, though, since he had never heard Goodman’s band live. In preparation, Hurok attended a performance by the band and the Goodman small groups at the Manhattan Room of the Pennsylvania Hotel one night, and thereafter, he had fewer concerns about the upcoming performance. 17 He noted in particular that more people were sitting or standing and listening to the band than were dancing, which led him to believe that Goodman’s music could transition from dancing to concert music. 18
Although Hurok’s personal misgivings decreased, the concert remained a financial risk. The probability of making money from the concert was remote, since the program required that Goodman commission several new arrangements and hire outside musicians, as well as the usual costs of producing an event. He also required special rehearsals for the new arrangements and the more unusual parts of the program, including
15 Samuel Barclay Charters and Leonard Kunstadt, Jazz; a history of the New York scene (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1962), p. 270. 16 Harlow Robinson, The last impresario: the life, times, and legacy of Sol Hurok (New York: Viking, 1994), p. 227-241. 17 Kolodin, liner notes, p. 10. 18 Kolodin, liner notes, p. 9.
“Twenty Years of Jazz,” which consisted of pieces never before performed by the Goodman orchestra. Furthermore, many free tickets were distributed to other swing professionals, in appreciation for various roles in creating the event. In addition, since the concert was experimental, it was also certain to fail to sell out. Goodman was so confident of this fact that he waited until the week before the concert to find tickets for his family, who had come from Chicago for the event. When the tickets unexpectedly sold out several weeks in advance, he was forced to buy tickets from a scalper. A significant number of these tickets were sold as soon as the tickets went on sale. 19
Tickets prices ranged between 85 cents and $2.75, a little less than the New York Philharmonic charged. 20
The evening of the concert was cold, evidenced by the photographs of people standing in overcoats and gloves outside the theatre. 21 The group surrounding the theater included pro-Franco protesters, who intended to show disapproval to Goodman’s support of the loyalists in the Spanish Civil War. 22 Inside, the theatre was filled to capacity, with extra seats set up by the stage and standing room tickets sold the night of the concert, totaling 2860. 23 The audience included some formally dressed concertgoers mixed with a large number of enthusiastic teenagers and college students who usually frequented dance halls. 24 Attendees received program notes written by Irving Kolodin in a style that would
19 Kolodin, liner notes, p. 10. 20 Firestone, p. 209. 21 Kolodin, liner notes, p. 13. 22 Firestone briefly discusses the origins of these political leanings on p. 211. 23 Firestone, p. 212. 24 Ibid.
be very familiar to a typical Carnegie audience. 25 The large audience combined with the perceived stuffiness of the group and location caused unusual nerves in the bandmembers. Right before taking the stage, Harry James uttered his famous quote, “I feel like a whore in church,” emphasizing the feeling that jazz would be out of place in a hall that housed the greatest art music of the Western tradition. Though they may not have considered themselves worthy of the venue, the orchestra personnel that performed at Carnegie Hall included some of the most famous in the Swing Era. Benny Goodman (1909-1986), who performed on the clarinet in addition to filling the role of bandleader, was one of the biggest stars of the 1930s. He was born and raised in Chicago, which in the 1910s and 1920s was a center of activity in the jazz world, second only to New Orleans. Goodman was born to immigrant Jewish parents who struggled to provide for their family of 14. Though a middle-class family would have discouraged their children from becoming professional musicians, to the poor, music was a step up from servitude. Therefore, Goodman’s parents required the young Benny to take music lessons at the local synagogue beginning at age ten. Goodman‘s career as a clarinetist began shortly after he began lessons. He exhibited a natural talent for the instrument and could imitate famous clarinetists, including Ted Lewis, a popular bandleader. Goodman also became interested in the New Orleans style of jazz that was popular in Chicago. While much of the white world saw jazz as a cultural novelty, Goodman was interested in it for strictly musical reasons. Race, to Goodman, was irrelevant, and he would keep that view throughout his life. He dropped out of school at
25 These notes are reproduced in the liner notes to Phil Schaap's 1999 remaster of the concert recording. Benny Goodman, The Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert, compact disc, Columbia/Legacy, C2K 65143.
fourteen to pursue a career in jazz. His first gigs were with cabaret and dance hall orchestras, playing primarily dance music, though often improvising in a jazz manner, allowing the young clarinetist to improve his jazz skills and meet the musicians of the Chicago jazz scene. Goodman secured his first band position in 1925, when he left Chicago for Los Angeles to play with Ben Pollack’s orchestra. The organization of Pollack’s band made an impression on Goodman in two main ways. Firstly, Pollack created a small combo from his big band. The big band necessarily played structured dance music, and adding small group performances using the most talented players allowed the musicians to play hotter improvised pieces. In the Pollack band, the group consisted of Goodman, trumpeter Jimmy McPartland, trombonist Jack Teagarden, and a rhythm section (including Pollack on drums). Because of his positive experiences in Pollack’s small groups, Goodman copied the idea when he organized his own orchestra. He also took Pollack’s idea of pairing the drums with the clarinet in a solo section. This was a device that contributed greatly to Goodman’s biggest hit – his band’s version of “Sing, Sing, Sing.” 26
Pollack took his band to New York in 1928, bringing Goodman along. In New York, the Pollack orchestra was often used in studio sessions. Goodman left Pollack in 1929 to become a full-time freelance player, and studio and radio work formed the bulk of his employment. In these recording sessions, Goodman was cast as the hot soloist, as most songs, though they were hardly jazz, included a few token bars of improvisatory
26 James Lincoln Collier, Benny Goodman and the Swing Era (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 54.
playing. As the music industry began to feel the effects of the Depression, Goodman turned to radio work, where employment was plentiful. By 1933, the music industry was beginning to recover from the Depression, and Goodman was ready to form his own band. John Hammond, a Columbia records executive who helped the careers of countless jazz and popular musicians, organized his first band. Hammond formed a studio band with Goodman as leader for backing up some of Hammond’s favorite soloists, including Billie Holiday, Ethel Waters, and Mildred Bailey. The band was short-lived, though, and broke up in 1934. Several further attempts to organize a big band in the following year fell short, and Goodman returned to his freelancing, believing that it was the only way to have a music career. 27
Goodman’s band at the start of 1938 is widely accepted as its greatest incarnation. 28 Goodman’s group had steadily increased in talent from its inception in 1934. In November 1934, Goodman’s group won an audition for a radio show called “Let’s Dance” for NBC broadcasting. Along with the performance spot came a budget for arrangements, and this allowed Goodman to hire Fletcher Henderson. Henderson had led an extraordinarily popular band in the late 1920s and early 1930s, but all of the group’s members had quit at once in 1934, leaving Henderson in financial straits. He sold a group of arrangements to Goodman for the “Let’s Dance” broadcasts, including several that would become Goodman orchestra standards.