Transcript:

Speaker Among musicians. Uh, uh. That Ben, his personality was a lot more important than his his actual playing, and some of these guys were clarinetists themselves and perhaps they felt that they. Had had had a difficult time living up to the standards that he said, I think.

Speaker OK.

Speaker Benny has sort of two reputations. And the third reputation is something that seems to get buried and it seems to me to be the most important one. He has a reputation as an eccentric, which followed him from the late 30s until he died. He was eccentric and. Uh, in my experience, very, very funny and very conscious of his being funny. That was his sense of humor. I think a lot of people thought that he was. Totally unaware of all of the things that he said that were phony. I think he really laughed at him. He he laughed a lot. Very funny guy. And we spent a lot of time getting mileage out of these things, you know, at the same time he was. I think also painted as a. Sort of a cruel ban later. And there's no doubt about the fact that he was on occasion. Not the nicest guy in the world. Sometimes. He was even irrational in the way that he dealt with other musicians. I never had that experience and I'm really glad, for instance, the famous Ray, which is the glare that you were supposed to get, the legendary glare that you're supposed to get when it was your time is up. It was all over. I don't I don't think Ray ever really exist. And I think Benny was a guy who was very, very far removed from most the people that he was working with, although he in most cases had good judgment and seemed to allow especially horn players to allow him all the freedom in the world. Uh, the ray to me was the fact that he wasn't paying any attention at all. He was lost. There was. You could have waved a hand in front of that ray. And the chances were he would not have noticed. I think. I hope because I got a bunch of times, you know. And I think, you know, he was out.

Speaker I'd be a really tough. Disciplinarian and tough, cruel band leader was part of it that he really was insistent on getting a certain quality.

Speaker Well, I was.

Speaker I was both fortunate and unfortunate in working with Benny and in later years, and so I would think that during the early years during his real.

Speaker Years of popularity, the late thirties, until, say, the end of the 40s. I would think that he was a much more strict disciplinarian than he was in the times that I known in the Times that I knew him in the late 70s, early 80s when I worked with him. He wasn't strict at all. He was irrational. Sometimes he was impossible sometimes.

Speaker He was also very funny, sometimes friendly occasionally and, uh, mostly. And this is the important thing, concerned with playing the clarinet. And I suppose the the the big thing that annoys me really about everything is that is that.

Speaker His.

Speaker What's not pretty is the back of again here again. OK. We're positive, sir.

Speaker We can we can try this another way. I don't sound to adenoidal, no way. All right. Oh, okay. Study looking at all. Yeah. Okay. You can look up a thing, but that's basically where. Okay.

Speaker Okay.

Speaker I won't take credit for this because I've spent a lot of time with Ruby Brive, the cornet player, and Ruby spent a lot of time with Benny in the 50s and I suppose had a few incidents where he didn't like Benny. But this is a guy who many years later.

Speaker Sort of. I mean, I I didn't need to be convinced. Ruby just reinforced it. And I'd love him to get credit here that that that Benny was really one of the most creative jazz musicians of this century and therefore a jazz period.

Speaker And because of his mass popularity in the 30s and 40s, I think he's he's been sort of. Yeah. Sorry, I wasn't doing good.

Speaker I feel like like Ben, he's kind of got a bum deal and a lot of ways. And not not just because of racial reasons, which which I mean they factor in, but nobody knows how to deal with that issue yet. I think I think a jazz is being, you know, a product of black culture. And I think Benny thought of it that way as well. I think he understood the difference between jazz and European music. And that was one of the few people that. Really understood. And. What jazz was all about at a very, very early age, 16, 17 years old, the guy was making records that were. Well, hold up, hold up now. And you don't get the kind of studio work that many got when he was young in New York without being a phenomenon. And most importantly. And this has been fairly ignored by critics, but I really have hope that it is just a temporary thing. You cannot ignore a major influence like that. And Benny's playing has no precedent. Is that right? President, I know of no other clarinet player that sounded like Benny. Before then, he started playing I Love Frank Tegmark. I've heard Jimmy Noone records. Johnny died. Believe me, there's many, many more. I can't think of any clarinet player that sounded like him. And I. I've always thought that that was the.

Speaker The.

Speaker Simple reason for his popularity. You take that and put it together with the fact that the man made an incredible amount of records between the time that his band hit in mid to late 30s and say the war when things started to change and just take that one little period there where he was at his. Highest in terms of popularity. For a guy to make.

Speaker That many records and to be that good and that creative and to create that personal sound is a an accomplishment that's on a level with the people that we all consider to be the greatest jazz musicians of the time.

Speaker Louis Lester Young, Charlie Christian Byrd, everybody. And I think. You know, I mean, I like them.

Speaker Whether you like them or not, I think he really deserves his place in the music speaks for itself. Really?

Speaker Just to come back to the racial thing. So the perception is because he's white, he couldn't be that good or that he's definitely been treated for that.

Speaker Yes. OK.

Speaker You know, I don't want to come off as I don't want to be misunderstood again.

Speaker That's why that's why I think it's very brave of you to tackle it. It was. Yes. OK. You should do it in a way. And then we'll be sure we get it. Yeah. Let's get it right.

Speaker The important thing is to understand that I really do. Think that for the most part, the major influences in jazz music have been black Americans or African-Americans, whatever you prefer. That's a fact. It's a. It's a cultural phenomenon jazzes. And it's a wonderful one. And there are a lot of European elements in it, but without. The African-Americans would not have existed. But along the way, occasionally, you know, not only have some good players involved that are white. But but but some major players, you know, you think of Bix Beiderbecke, who was a tremendous influence on Lester Young and on Benning as well. You think of Jack Teagarden who influenced, you know, all of the trombone players of the day. And you can go on and get into Stan Getz and Zoot Sims. People like that. The thing with Benny is that he really did something. That's unprecedented. I don't know of any white player that. Occupies that. Well, the critics are interested in a sphere of influence. More than anything else. And I understand that kind of thinking because if you're a writer, you really have to go that way. How else can you talk about the music? Well, if that's the case, then Benny Occupy occupies a space that the. That no other white jazz musician can lay claim to, I think. And I don't think the racial issue is so important. I think in 100 years it's a moot point, really. But I think Benny is going to get his due in the end. In the wash. Somehow.

Speaker You mentioned Lester Young. There's several stories about you, about this famous story, and Penny never mentioned Lester to me once.

Speaker He mentioned Vito Musso all the time. But that was because he thought it was funny and not funny, because Vito was funny, but because neither of us could read. And Vito was sort of the first guy in his band that couldn't read that Benny found out. It didn't matter. You know, he memorized the book a few weeks and Benny used to get a big laugh out of breaking himself up over the fact that he used to lay a line on Vito about what?

Speaker Can you read the newspaper and then laugh for two or three minutes?

Speaker Well, we all said that, but. He never spoke about price. He never spoke about it. I'm trying to think of was another tennis player. He ever talk to me about? He used to. If he didn't like the guys in the band or if there was something that he didn't like about them, he would start talking about guys. That he had in 1936 37, and I have a feeling this was a real. I mean, this thing started in the 40s and never was. I mean, Warren Shea, who we loved, who played clarinet with him on most of the gigs that I didn't. He he he loved the way one playing. And he was very, very nice to him. But he would occasionally take him aside and yell at him in this voice, you know, allow you to blow the horn.

Speaker You know, it's just like like, you know, like Ziggy, like Harry, you know, or he would get with Carl Collins was our guitar player at the time.

Speaker And he would he would say, why do you want to play that orange guitar? Is it this kind of a rock and roll guitar? Isn't much of a guitar like Allen Roofs, you know? So he he only really brought those those people up when when he wanted to, I suppose, get us to change something.

Speaker OK. Let's go again. I'll be better next then. OK. Of course. On the water.

Speaker If you want to look at the history of jazz, I always think, especially if you want to look at it the way that most jazz writers look at it. You've got a few characters that came along in this century, in the history of jazz, that that sort of made it impossible for somebody to come along and play the same instrument in a different way and be effective. Somebody that influenced the way that people thought about the instrument so much that he nearly destroyed its place in in in the music.

Speaker Charlie Parker certainly did that with the alto.

Speaker Certainly John Coltrane did that on the tenor. Lester Young. For a while, their influence, so many tenor players that you. If Coltrane hadn't come along, perhaps that would have been the end all. Louis Armstrong did it and Dizzy Gillespie came along and that that's a phenomenon in itself. But, Benny, if you think about it.

Speaker There is very, very little clarinet in jazz after Benny. You've got Buddy de Franco, wonderful player. You've got Tony Scott, Eddie Daniels. I mean, Kenny Devine.

Speaker There's some marvelous players. And I've left out an awful lot, but I'm trying to name the very, very few clarinet players that. Did did or not so influenced by Benny that that it's whether they're leading ghost bands or something.

Speaker I mean, you know, some of the best clarinetist in the world that the majority of them owe their soul to Benny Goodman and.

Speaker That's that's quite an accomplishment for for one person, you know.

Speaker Then I think the I was that he I said to you, gee, I think this guy was miserable and was so driven. He was so, you know, that's a trick. And you had to come back to that.

Speaker Daddy wasn't miserable.

Speaker He was. Yeah. OK.

Speaker All right. How would you say that?

Speaker Well, then he didn't have, like, a, you know, a fairy tale life. I mean, he came from very, very poor family and.

Speaker And, uh, I'm sure that that was one of the things that drove him to to become as rich as he did. But I don't think it had anything to do with the music. I think the music was in.

Speaker And from the very beginning, the man just had a absolutely phenomenal talent and he was just what people would call it natural. Yeah, I no. Clank creaks.

Speaker We forget those two things matter. Yeah. It's so rare that somebody would think that out.

Speaker Yeah, I think I think basically that that one of the reasons a lot of people had problems with banning was he wasn't a social person. He was not great with people. Oh, he could pull it off. And he had to.

Speaker But he was he was he was from a he was from a very humble background.

Speaker In other words. That's a euphemism. He didn't have any money. And Benny strove for not only from for money, but for culture and most of his life. He really lived up to that goal.

Speaker But above that way, above that was the music and his absolute obsession with it. And I think that's where I admire the most in that. The demand had for number of reasons. He was in terrible pain from the early 40s until he died. Notably, I suppose, back pain, which is something that people are not too good at diagnosing or curing. And who knows what they might have done to him in the 40s and made it even worse. I know that during the time that I played with him, he was in pain most of the time. And I think music was the only salvation. And I think without the pain, it would've been the same anyway. He he really cared about nothing except plane and secondarily money. Money was important. He didn't give it away. That's for sure.

Speaker But it's really not so important. We're talking about an artist and nobody says, well, you know, viognier was tight with a buck or, you know, it's it's just not said that way, you know? It's not important. After a few years. Uh, the thing that really matters about Benny Goodman is his absolute total dedication and total concentration in music, and I'm playing his instrument.

Speaker And I think that was a. The major factor in his personality. The reason why people found him to be aloof. The reason why people found him to be difficult to get along with socially. I mean, the man just wasn't thinking about other people. He was thinking about fingerings and in notes and ideas and emotions, too.

Speaker I'm sure you thought about a lot. It was a preoccupation that was real. But I don't mean to undercut that. But whatever you want to think of him looking for Reid as a Reid player. Can you describe that? And really what he.

Speaker Yeah, it was just an excuse. Whatever you think about it, during the time that I work with Bennett.

Speaker I will give him twice. Really? Not twice. Two different periods once in the late 70s and once in the early 80s.

Speaker And from what I know from the other fellas. OK, sorry. That sounds.

Speaker Benny didn't have to worry about buying reeds so much. And I always people used to laugh about the fact that he would go through a whole five boxes before he found one he liked. And I suppose this is Reed players fantasy of some sort. Because they're expensive. And these days you can't even even if you have the money, sometimes they're not available.

Speaker But, uh, this was not a problem for somebody of Benny Goodman stature. Oh, get out of here.

Speaker Everybody who ever worked with Bennett knew about this. This business with the Reeds and, uh, being a Reed player myself and somebody who's always. Used to too many reads or starting in.

Speaker I'm sorry. Let's try again. Not hearing yet. Yes. Get it right.

Speaker Everybody knew about Betty and reads and and. Well, I mean, I understand that it's a it's a it's a neurosis and it can be a bad one. It really can then be used to bunnies to go to five or six boxes of reeds before a performance. He'd play this one little sort of, for lack of a better word, and exercise in any Polaroid of slapping anyone like that in a play this thing. I can't describe it. It was the same noise every time. And he knew when he had what he liked. And if I had been his money, I would've done the same thing. Because, you know, what's the point of being a millionaire if you if you can't have a good read? You know, I think he was right. Most of my band and most of us suffer with what we get. Benny was smart and knew what his release. He had his priorities straight. He cared about money, but not when it came to producing a sound, and very often he used to send Chris Florey was playing guitar in 82 when I worked for Chris, used to always get these calls from the offices. Oh, Chris, please stop by. Manny's on the way out to LaGuardia. You know, can you pick up 17 boxes of Labasa with or I'm sure use that. But, uh. That was one of the things that I understood about the other thing was his obsession with temperatures. It wasn't very showman like in other words, it involved a great deal of foot stamping and different tempos in Little Rock, Arkansas, with a crowd of people that really didn't know what was going on. And most the time, the end of the show, everybody would say, well, what was really nice was what was the matter with Mr. Goodman? And we would answer nothing. He's always like that. That's what he does.

Speaker Describe that thing, whatever, 770 play. Thirty five. He had this thing where you would like to, like, figure out what was the right. Yeah.

Speaker I don't know about the early years. I always assumed he must have been sort of, you know, I mean, you play six shows, seven nine shows a day at the Paramount Theater in between movies. I don't imagine you have a whole lot of time for tapping tempos. But in the years that I worked with him, things were considerably looser and that was a good thing for me. He he would tap his foot or one tempo for a while and then he whistles some note. I never understood what that was about at all. And then he would tap his foot at another tempo and. Yeah, betting, I mean, he was. I understood what he was doing, and sometimes I thought that that he was wrong. And I know other guys always felt that way, too. Sometimes he would try. Six, seven times. With with with little interruptions to get the tempo straight and dead air and on a stage in a concert to me is is.

Speaker Extremely nerve racking. But with Benny Goodman, I frankly, it didn't bother me at all. I mean, he's Benny Goodman. Who cares? If he wants to spend 10 minutes trying to find a table that he likes. Very often he would change the tempo after he got in tune, and I think that was one of the problems that he had with with good drummers, the greatest drummers do not change tempo when you start to play. And I think Benny liked a guy to kind of go the way he wanted to go. I think he changed his mind a lot. I think he heard tunes that a lot of different tempos. Perhaps he liked the variety. Perhaps it was just a thing that that particular night he liked. Perhaps he liked to have that kind of freedom. All I know is that they didn't come in at the same every time. The room is different.

Speaker What are some of the other. You said there were a lot of stories, some funny anecdotes.

Speaker You don't have to data unless it's important.

Speaker Okay. I got one I can think of right now. He was a very funny guy. Really funny. I thought and not so funny when he yelled at you. And I didn't get yelled at once. I got fired a couple of times, but. But yelled at. No, I was lucky. And as a horn player, I think that was sort of the rule. And he didn't think of us as being so important to be liked as we get the job and then. We were kind of left alone. Long as we were paying attention. That was the big thing.

Speaker Peripheral vision was maintained. Uh, he.

Speaker I can remember one time he had a rehearsal. It was in a they have a rehearsal studio and. We had a rehearsal. There was a studio uptown. Fifty Fifth Street. Uh, very funny place in the Wellington Hotel. And it must have been a good deal or something like that. And there was an old lady who brought in coffee and cookies during the break. And we would rehearse.

Speaker Well, I wasn't there as much as the other guys were because I wasn't in the band as much as the other guys were. But, uh, one of the funny stories there was that the John Bunch, who had been playing piano with Benny since the late 50s, really, and he was one of Danny's favorite pianists for good reasons. Uh.

Speaker OK. You're telling me that, John.

Speaker We were rehearsing in this place, and I suppose I hadn't been involved in so many. But John had been for all of them and there were five or six rehearsals and John was getting a little peeved because Benny would sort of ignore the fact that, well, you know, in the past, he'd been expected to pay for rehearsals. And so finally, John says he raised his hand.

Speaker You know, Benny, or, you know, I really hate to do this to you, but, you know, we're supposed to get paid for these these these rehearsals that we do. And Benny couldn't even skip a beat his areas, his ways. Well, when he says, I know all these songs, we're not rehearsing for me. Rehearsing for you. Brilliant, right?

Speaker So you think he had he had fun apart from his obsession? He got pleasure out of Atalay. He was not a guy. No.

Speaker I don't really think Benning was tortured, except except by physical pain. Yeah, I think he had to live with that. And that must have been really a drag. I mean, this was a 24 hour a day thing, and I have no idea how. What, what, what all the causes were.

Speaker I just know that when I worked with them, he was most of the time not heavily medicated and, uh, just sort of living with it. And I always get the feeling that his playing was was one of the few escapes and it may have contributed to the heat in his playing. I think also at the same time, he is a very funny guy who wasn't a very sociable guy, which is an odd combination. But it does happen. And to me, you know. The funny stuff out, no.

Speaker The bad stuff funny. I mean, I think a whole lot of stuff.

Speaker One of which one I should tell. Not the one where he comes out of the toilet with his with his. Is a jacket tucked into his pants. No, I don't think there was there was one time I can.

Speaker I do remember several times on the airplane where Benny would broaden first. And we'd be back in coach. And they didn't have a curtain at that time, did to close off the first class section. And by halfway through the trip, we'd see two blue socks suspended in midair above the seat in the front with a huge hole in one of the volunteers. Well, that's got to be Benny is doing his back exercises again.

Speaker Funny guy on planes and no funny guy in general, actually. I mean, the stories are numerous. And in a lot of them, if you if you really check them now, you find that there not is unintentional on his part as it is, is made out to be.

Speaker Can you give a.

Speaker You want us to hold on for a second? So tablemate.

Speaker I think, you know, a lot of people have mentioned BEXELL when they talk about banning, and I think it has to be mentioned because Becks was certainly Bix Beiderbecke was a lot more influential on both black and white jazz players in the 30s than he's ever really been given credit for. He's always sort of mentioned is, you know, you know, wonderful artists. But his contribution was was really in terms of logical improvisation, something that links together the sort of thing that Lester Young brought to a high art. And certainly Benny as well, although Benny was no slavish imitator any more than Neistat was, I suppose Becs was the most sophisticated person, more sophisticated musician in Benny Circle when he was growing up, without a doubt. And that all the other clarinet players that were in Benny Social Circle were good, but but not as influential as big one. So I'm not surprised that other people would say that Benny was maybe a little bit looser in a way and not quite as competent.

Speaker Yeah, I can speak, if you will, about specifics about assault.

Speaker Yeah.

Speaker I think venting was a lot looser than Vic's and a lot of ways, and Blix was extremely fastidious in the way that he.

Speaker Set up a solo in terms of lyricism and in terms of structure and architecture. Benny was also. Very, very serious about the beginning, the middle, the end. What we talked about is he. He thought the same way, I suppose anybody who's any good thinks that same way. Although some people make it seem a little bit more off the cuff than others, because sometimes it. With all of his wonderful rhythmic complexity and looseness, you could hear the thought almost that went into it. Whereas with Danny there was also this just undeniable urge to be hot. Know that infused that that kind of thing. I think, uh, yeah. You if you want to look for an influence on Benny, you don't look at other clarinet players, although he did admire Jimmy Noone. I know I would looked at Beck's and I heard a record one time of Benny play any alto sax. And I was really curious and then late 20s studio sessions. And when I heard it, it was because it really was being in the same register and playing in sort of a foreign instrument for Benny. Not much. I think he wanted to be much of a sax player, but that's where he played. He played like a coronets Oliver Becks and did it. I think much more authentically than a lot of the kornev players that came along after that trying to do that sort of thing.

Speaker Any other kind of play you mentioned. So more of the same that you know or Freeman.

Speaker I always thought I was funny. They never talked about tennis players and me except for Vito, and he never talked about veto's playing. And I guess he assumed that we both like the same people. I do know they loved Lester Young and he was one of the few guys that sort of supported Lester in his early in his early years said.

Speaker Ready? OK.

Speaker I do know that Benny loved Lester Young at a time when it was not really popular. Love Lester Young. In other words. In nineteen thirty six or thirty seven. I'm sure that the reason they got together was because of John Hammond. But Benny was not the sort of person to take John Howard's word for anything. He he had his own opinions. And I think Benny heard and Lester a musical quality that he admired, you know, and probably something that he didn't hear. Another tenor, players, even the greats. Coleman Hawkins at the time, Ben Webster was certainly doing a lot of dates back then. I think he loved Price. Uh, the tenor players that he used in his band were all good players.

Speaker I don't remember him ever talking about Georgie Alder or Babe Russin or even later on Getz and Zoot and the guys that were in there, you know, only once.

Speaker Only once did he ever mention Charlie Creation. We did a gig on Jones Beach one time and he and he was giving a feature to the trombone player, Joe Holland, who was playing trombone at the time. And as usual, you will. Joe, what would you like to play? And he said, darn that dream. And Benny proceeded to talk for about 15 or 20 minutes about this musical that Jimmy Van Heusen and some others had written on, based on A Midsummer Night's Dream. And he wanted to tell everybody that that's where the song came from. And then he said, well, you know, who's that guitar player? He was there, too, you know. And I mentioned I was sitting there, you know, and I waited a while and it was dead air. So I want to jump in. And I said, Who's Eddy Kahn? And that's him. Was it Alan Rose? He says, No one. The good one. The good one. Somebody else to me goes, Charlie Christian. Yeah, that's the boy. I mean, you know, it shows you that he knew exactly who he was talking about. He wanted to play with us and wanted to play with the audience a little bit, I think. But I don't think Benny ever forget Charlie Christian's name ever in his life. It was a very important thing to him. And I think he might have been slightly annoyed. In later years that all of the records he made, which with Charlie Christian, came out under Christian's name. And maybe that was the reason for this. I don't know.

Speaker I guess the last thing about the names that you got your name wrong, OK?

Speaker Yeah. Frequently he would not get names. Right. But I was so flattered to be working in the band. I really didn't care. I was Chet Hamilton most of the time. And John Bunch for for 25 years was frequently Bob Bunch, after which Benny would invariably say who I used to know a guy named Bob Bunch very well. And that's the reason I make them this. There was a cornet player at Pulser that used to work with him who was red pull Czech and almost all of the gigs. And I said, hi, this founded, you know, Chet. It's all right. When they went to Benny Goodman.

Speaker The first band that I worked with with with Benny. The one with Michael Moore and Connie Kay and Carl Collins, Warren Bass, Shea and myself.

Speaker Nice band, John Bon Jumpin. Wonderful. And Benny would often be not feeling so good and cow a cow.

Speaker He's a very sophisticated guy. But but also kind of countrified because he he's got a little farm outside of Cincinnati.

Speaker He's got a little of the Kentucky hills, too, you know. And he was you know, he used to humor Benny a lot. You know, in the dressing room. And I can remember there was one story I wasn't there at the time, so I won't claim that. But but everybody else in the band was hanging around in his dressing room and, uh, and Cow was sort of trying to be concerned that his back was bothering them like that.

Speaker And the first thing you said it.

Speaker Kalanchoe It will play shorter endings with long endings shorter. He was obsessed with them. And then he said, oh you know, not feeling very good. Well when Calvert's everybody Benny, you know, can I get you an aspirin. Well how about some whiskey. We get some whiskey that don't make it back for you. Well I don't think so. Did you get a hot bath when you got home? No. No. How about a back rub? Can I give you a back rub? No, no. Just play shorter endings.

Speaker I don't know if this thing would work, but Bikal at one time. And this is one that we used to break up with because this shows really that he was being funny at the time. Benny loved to fish, you know. And often when we worked the whole idea, the concept would be we'd played a concert in Grand Rapids because some millionaire in Grand Rapids were offered Benny, you know, three days of fly fishing before before the gig. And he loved it. And Carl was trying to butter him up one night, you know. And his funny way in cowls, a funny guy, too. And the way the betting was, he was I think they knew each other were they didn't take each other seriously when they did these things, you know.

Speaker Uh.

Speaker Check. Charles started working on to come down to Cincinnati and go fishing with him. And it wasn't a serious ploy. Calvin won't take any fishing. He had jobs to do. And but it was his way of socializing with Betty and it worked. And in Kalis, anyway, you know, he says, Benny, you got to come down to Cincinnati. I'll take you to a creek. He says, I got this place. They got it. Take a bash. You'll be pulling bass out of there like this. And in the end, Benny would say large mouth. Small mouth. So. So we. We got both aces and Benny. Oh, you should see the girls in Cincinnati. We have the most beautiful girls out there, you know. You know about Midwestern girls, don't you, Ben? What do you got?

Speaker A small mouth, a large. I don't know if that goes in or not, but.

Speaker I think it's just the three studio relief's they won't be put up. Thank you.

Speaker The we talked to you tonight about my impression and you sort of verify it. Let me know how you feel about it. When Betty came along and in like thirty four, I first started to be successful, jazz was really in a bad way. It was starting to go record sales, way down pressure on things. And so it really was more than just like this. It's a pop phenomenon. The swing that revitalized in your own words, how it would influence, you say was jazz in a bad way. Did the fact that.

Speaker Yeah, yeah, well, I'm not a historian, but but I read that in standard textbooks and things like that and, uh, you know, uh, there are a lot of people were jealous of Beneš success in mid thirties.

Speaker And at the time, I don't blame them. This was the height of the depression and things were not going well for anybody. And no doubt about it, he used some of the great talents, uh, of the of those years to get to the place where he got meaning Fletcher Henderson's arrangements and, uh, Edgar Sampson's, uh, compositions, like stopping at the Savoy. He was obviously using things that that he heard when he went up to Harlem and check things out, Chick Webb's band and, uh, Fletcher Henderson. And later on Count Basie, uh, at the same time, you you have to admit that things were not going well for jazz in the early 30s, in the late 20s. There was a boom before the stock market crashed. Everything. Well, they call anything jazz back then. But an awful lot of good musicians got work out of the deal because it was new and it was different. And by the 33 34, it was very difficult for a lot of these guys to get a job outside of a studio gang making commercial broadcasts and things like that. The Dorsey Brothers had a band. I doubt if it was, uh, anything close to what Benny had until after Benny. Benny, for whatever reasons, uh, achieved tremendous success. Because I think.

Speaker He he really felt somewhere inside that he was a good businessman. I think he felt that there was a there was an audience for jazz and it hadn't been pushed properly. And he also had what he lacked in charisma is is a sort of a matinee idol. He certainly wasn't. And Artie Shaw or, you know, somebody like that. But the charisma was in his playing the heat, the intensity of his playing and the fact that he also went to the best people available to get to the charts and to the best sidemen available. And I think it's no surprise that he was successful. But he certainly was a pioneer in that respect.

Speaker I hope you don't mind my calling. I'd rather have you a musician talk about it. Yeah. Thank you.

Speaker The.

Speaker I I've heard and this is all second secondary source material, but most of it actually really goes back to Ruby Braff who who used to talk to Barry on the telephone in later years and work from quite a bit in the 50s.

Speaker And he would call Ruby Occasion on the phone. You know, ask him generally ask him, like, whether somebody was alive or dead, whether he could reissue the record and that kind of thing. But he used to talk a lot about jazz. And in fact, I think it's even been printed that Digest A.C., the pianist who is with the original band that just was his favorite piano player above all, even Terry and Neil Powell and the people. I mean, this is incredible competition. But if you listen the way Stacy played in the van. Yeah, I could see it. And Benny had is definitely had his personal preferences that had nothing to do with what the press or the historians really say was the best. His favorite drama, in retrospect, I always heard and once again, second hand it was Gene Krupa. He hired the best drummers in the world. Davy Tuffy. Sid Catlett. People like that. But first, as far as I know and I don't know, Benny, to be the sort of person that, you know, lied to the press about anything. He he didn't see the point in lying. You know, he if you like, somebody said so if he didn't, he. He said nothing. Uh, he loved Gene and he loved his playing. But jazz, I think he even went so far as to say that I hate to just throw this out, but I I'm pretty sure I read it somewhere. That just was his favorite musician of all time.

Speaker This is. Just throw it out. So people have asked us about the terms. They said he wasn't. What? How would you and Rachel get this swing? What do you want to do?

Speaker I suppose the real the real complication when you start dealing semantics like this, the word swing and its importance. The problem is that it means two things. It's used in a sort of a derogatory way and always has been to sort of depict an era in which jazz was very commercially acceptable in an era in which a lot of good jazz was being played on sort of a, you know, mass media type level. At the same time, the word's swing is a lot older than then. Then then the movement, then the music or the category and the word swing still applies today. Even with the avant garde, it's just a it's just a positive way of expressing a good rhythm, proper infectious rhythm. I mean, it applies as well to Strauss Waltz as it does, too. As it does to a modern rock band and some sort of rhythmic thing. You know, a groove where groove is now. And this swing was back then. There's a groove back then, too, I think. I think the most objections are that swing as a category is a silly sort of a thing to say. But what else are you going to call it? I mean, they had to they have to name the music. Between 1930 and nineteen forty one or forty two. That is, if it stopped then you know, that was prevalent. And I suppose swing is as good a name as any. But it was certainly jazz music. It wasn't anything else. There was improvisation and the rhythms were jazz rhythms. And they were based upon Louis Armstrong and later on Benny and Count Basie and people like that.

Speaker Similarly, based on reporting the president is talking about, that 36, 37, 38 band is a state that defense arrangements were his favorite at the end of his life. You've got not a lot for playing, pulling out the old Anderson, doing that and talking about the Russian to get him updated. And I wondered if you get a sense from him. But that's one reason, like playing with small groups sort of as the main focus for his life tonight. It was a forum where it was just news wasn't Sweeney, it wasn't a category. It wasn't trying to recreate that band's sound.

Speaker It was just a sound.

Speaker And, you know, it's timeless in a way. And I wonder if you could take on that.

Speaker I think the Benny really had no problem with dropping the big band. I think he could have done it at any time. I think he enjoyed it. He liked it. He certainly loved not only the classics, the Fletcher Henderson arrangements, but the complex, insane things that Eddie Sadr and Mel Powell wrote in the 40s.

Speaker Excuse me. I knew that was coming.

Speaker Where were we? We were talking about why big bands this moment.

Speaker I'm not sure. I mean, I'm I'm sure that they'd been in love playing with the big band. And that was, you know, a very important part of his life. But he always kept small groups in the act from the very beginning, really. And from the earliest time that he could. And I mean, the sextet numbers were, I think. The sextet numbers in the 40s, I think, were sort of a real high point for Benny. Not only artistically, but I think that he felt. I think that he felt very, very comfortable in that surrounding and enjoyed playing. I think in a way, Benny was as much as he was taken with arrangers and with Western classical music and things like that. I think he was such a hot jazz player at heart, really, that he involuntarily and enjoyed just blowing so much, you know, that his big band work is infused with even the most complicated things, that clarinet allocating and the Mel power thing, clarinet and some you know, some of the more difficult stuff that the two guys had to read. Benny still plays. The thing that makes him work is effective. Benny still plays a good jazz player and a very hot, intense jazz player. And I suppose that's the aspect of him that always appealed to me the most. Creativity was one thing and fantastic. But man, he swung and his his heat his intensity was was so big onstage, even even in his last performances, that I've rarely seen anybody that comes into that area that did that. He got him.

Speaker This is a very. So if nine musicians can understand what it is, there's something about the chemistry or the musical exchange and a group of five or six guys between horns and between him and the rhythm section that you were aware of, something happened. Can you describe him getting an idea? Is it him? Is it a chord or is it a refers to melody and how goes back before you get excited and look for great players. Yeah.

Speaker I would think that the Beneš existed within a vacuum for the most part. I wish I'd been around at the time that he heard Charlie Christian for the first time, or Lionel Hampton or Terry Wilson or Mel Powell or the time that he first came, Cootie Williams and his band, that sort of thing. That must have been exciting for him. And certainly he's not like any other great jazz player. He he he's not without his influence.

Speaker But I get the feeling that Bennett is one of these guys like Zoot Sims and Lionel. He got good sidemen because of his name and because people enjoyed the way he played. I don't think it mattered so much to him. I think Benny was betting no matter who he was.

Speaker And I certainly don't think we inspired him much in the times that I was working with him. And that's nothing to. It's not a sore point or anything like that. I, I saw it as a one way deal. You know, he got us out.

Speaker You know, there's another question is, what do you mean? Without getting caught.

Speaker All right. No, no. Very specifically. Betty was very, very influential. I was very lucky to get in on the last 10 years of a few of the real key figures of early jazz. I never get to meet Louis Armstrong. I never get to meet Duke Ellington. But I saw both of them. And I did get to meet Basey and some of the guys in the band. And I get to work with Benny Goodman and very few others in that circle.

Speaker There was Roy Eldridge. There was that Dickinson, Illinois Jacquet. People like that.

Speaker But, uh, with Benny, I had a, uh, a long term working association. Twice, once in seventy seven and once in 82. And I learned something. Both times. The first time I was very, very young. And what he taught me, I really didn't learn how to apply it until the next time I was with him. And that's how to get hard on a concert stage. From the word go. That's pretty difficult for even the most seasoned professional. And man, I tell you most the time I was just open mouthed standing there, enjoying him and hoping that he wasn't calling me. For the next solo in 82, I was a little better. And, uh, uh, I handled myself with more professional finesse and things like that. But at the same time, he taught me how to loosen up then because there was nobody looser. And he also gave me good advice a couple times. So, I mean, I'm very technical things. And he was quite free with it. So. I can't really think badly of them at all.

Speaker All right. Which is a bad belly, dancers playing dance. You can get that much better once or twice. What difference does that make? Did you ever talk about how we haven't got a record? It wasn't the same music content.

Speaker It's interesting because it's. Yeah, it doesn't go along with with with the things that is.

Speaker I mean, you always have kids out there.

Speaker Oh yeah. No doubt about it. I would think that anybody that did that enjoyed the kind of popularity that did the Benny did during those years. Never forgot the feeling of playing for really good dancers. For people that actually could handle dance and jazz. And it is it it's not common nowadays. And I understand why. Know it's not it's not the way people learn to dance anymore. I've had very few experiences with dances where it's been really inspirational. At the same time, I still enjoy working with Benny.

Speaker I can remember a couple of times where he opened the floor once at the Waldorf. He we played, I said know. And then he got on the mike and he said, Well, you clear the floor addicted. Cheers. You can dance afterwards, you know. And they get up and try and you know, but it was too late. And I think it was a disappointment to him, you know, because all of a sudden it was like a Lester landing date or something like that. And it wasn't it wasn't the same feel that he must have had back in the days when when people really could dance to his stuff. I suppose it it's just the direction and the music took and the direction that the audience took. And in most ways, Benny adapted himself to that. He seemed quite comfortable with a concert to me, very loose and very informal and sort of sort of the perfect way to play a concert.

Speaker Not not like a. Steph, you know something?

Speaker So you got to give her what the secret was to get people to listen or to pay attention to reach them.

Speaker No. In fact, very, very never spoke about that to me at all. We never discussed it. But I would say what he played spoke volumes, you know. I mean, that was really where it was end.

Speaker And if nothing else, he and a few others made it very clear to me that you could communicate with, uh, with this instrument, this abstract sort of a non-vocal device that you could really get through to people, because he did almost all the time. You certainly get through to us in the vein, you know. And, uh, yeah, I suppose there's no way to teach that anyone no better thing.

Speaker And then to have that example to follow. Uh.

Speaker Let's go back to the chemical thing. Yeah, sure, sure, you can describe specifically that, you know, he would start to try to get a set of temporary, you would say, just to describe the phenomenon to us and then take it from there, because I wasn't sure that. Someone told us this was Chris Griffin or Jim, and that's why they told us that they found and figured out what he was doing. And if you ever you ever notice this, he would go off and he would. He would signal lyrics to the song and get the tempo from doing singing the lyrics. But just a few describe what if you forgot that what you got to what he was doing? You get the tempo right.

Speaker I can remember a couple of concerts, in fact, most of the concerts over play with them. There was a tremendous amount of dead air in between the tunes, which seemed to be absolutely the least important thing in Benny's life. He just didn't care. And yet with any other leader, I would have been out of my mind. I mean, five minutes of silence between tunes, you know, hushed concert. I mean, this is the most destructive thing you could do as a band leader. Then he didn't feel that way. And he would tap one tempo and stop tapping. And also very strange little quirks. He did this alone.

Speaker This is one of the things that people used to say, what was wrong with Mr. Goodman? He does that a lot. You know, whatever it is, it is the way he gets into it, because when he did get into it, everything was fine. In fact, a whole lot better than any of us could have made it, I think. Yeah. Tapping Tempo's He may have been thinking lyrics. He may have been thinking of some little devices he was going to throw in to a song. He may have been trying to find a different tempo because this was often the case and trying to find a different temple than the one he usually hit. Maybe for a little inspiration.

Speaker I mean, when you're seventy five Lady Be Good is a great song, but maybe you want a little different slant on it. You know, I wish I had the patience to do it, you know, but I did. It always seemed like, well, you know, he knows what he's doing. He's Benny Goodman. Let him do it.

Speaker Last thing I remember, stories were orphans, metaphysical, Sasfin doing so well. Another story, which is I forget where we got some film shot.

Speaker Describe to me how they learned something from hearing the biggest play like he got the first time you heard it. Here was someone who played not just a solo and some other sidemen for me when they picked somebody would like not remember what they just played. He would remember other people. So you would remember exactly what they played. And when he played a solo like because he understood it, it was it was almost like a set piece, a beginning middle. And life was a little competition.

Speaker You didn't start diving for your own play with the soloist experience. So.

Scott Hamilton
Interview Date:
1993-03-03
Runtime:
1:04:16
Keywords:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-jq0sq8r45d, cpb-aacip-504-hm52f7kg1h, cpb-aacip-504-4f1mg7gb3j
MLA CITATIONS:
"Scott Hamilton, Benny Goodman: Adventures in the Kingdom of Swing." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 03 Mar. 1993, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/416
APA CITATIONS:
(1993, March 03). Scott Hamilton, Benny Goodman: Adventures in the Kingdom of Swing. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/416
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Scott Hamilton, Benny Goodman: Adventures in the Kingdom of Swing." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). March 03, 1993. Accessed May 16, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/416

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