Jazz at 100 Hour 15: Chick Webb & Benny Goodman

In the mid-1930s, jazz orchestras led by drummer Chick Webb and clarinetist Benny Goodman rose to prominence with the arrangements of Edgar Sampson and Fletcher Henderson. After launching the careers of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan, Webb succumbed to spinal tuberculosis in 1939, at age 34. Goodman launched the careers of Gene Krupa, Teddy Wilson, Lionel Hampton, Harry James and Charlie Christian over a storied run that earned him the controversial sobriquet “King of Swing”.

Chick Webb.
“[Chick Webb] was the first great drummer of the swing era, the leader of a fiercely competitive and innovative orchestra, a pacesetter for dancers during the golden age of ballroom dancing, and a nurturer of talent whose fabled generosity was rewarded when he discovered and groomed Ella Fitzgerald.” – Gary Giddens

Let’s Get Together. Chick Webb and His Orchestra
(Mario Bauza-tp, Reunald Jones-tp, Taft Jordan-tp, Sandy Williams-tb, Pete Clark-as, Edgar Sampson-as, Elmer Williams-ts, John Trueheart-bj/g, John Kirby-b, Chick Webb-d). 1/15/1934.
Darktown Strutter’s Ball. Chick Webb and His Orchestra
(Mario Bauza-tp, Reunald Jones-tp, Taft Jordan-tp/voc, Sandy Williams-tb, Pete Clark-as, Edgar Sampson-as, Elmer Williams-ts, John Trueheart-bj/g, John Kirby-b, Chick Webb-d). 12/20/1933.
A venerable standard by 1933, “Darktown Strutter’s Ball” was first recorded by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in 1917.
Liza (All The Clouds’ll Roll Away). Chick Webb and His Orchestra
(Mario Bauza, Bobby Stark, Taft Jordan, Sandy Williams, Nat Story, George Matthews, Garvin Bushnell, Hilton Jefferson, Ted McRae, Wayman Carver, Tommy Fulford, Bobby Johnson, Beverley Peer, Ella Fitzgerald) 6/9/1938.
Benny Carter wrote this piece as a feature for Webb’s drumming.

Chick Webb and Edgar Sampson.
“From 1931 on, Webb was admired by many white bandleaders – including Paul Whiteman – who knew they couldn’t raid a black band. Benny Goodman got around that by appropriating the orchestrations of Webb’s gifted saxophonist-violinist-arranger-composer Edgar Sampson, creator of several of the era’s anthems. The early Goodman hits that didn’t come from Fletcher Henderson’s book came from Webb’s, including “Don’t Be That Way,” “Stomping At The Savoy,” “Blue Lou,” “If Dreams Come True, all by Sampson.” – Gary Giddens

Stompin’ At The Savoy. Chick Webb and His Orchestra
(Mario Bauza-tp, Reunald Jones-tp, Taft Jordan-tp/voc, Sandy Williams-tb, Pete Clark-as, Edgar Sampson-as, Elmer Williams-ts, John Trueheart-bj/g, John Kirby-b, Chick Webb-d). 5/18/1934.
Blue Lou. Chick Webb and His Orchestra
(Mario Bauza-tp, Bobby Stark-tp, Taft Jordan-tp/voc, Sandy Williams-tb, Claude Jones-tb, Pete Clark-cl/as, Edgar Sampson-as, Wayman Carver-fl/ts, Elmer Williams-ts, Don Kirkpatrick-p, John Trueheart-g, John Kirby-b, Chick Webb-d). 11/19/1934.
If Dreams Come True. Chick Webb and His Orchestra
(Mario Bauza-tp, Bobby Stark-tp, Taft Jordan-tp, Sandy Williams-tb, Nat Story-tb, Garvin Bushnell-cl/as, Louis Jordan-as, Ted McRae-ts, Wayman Carver-fl/ts, Tommy Fulford-p, Bobby Johnson-g, Beverley Peer-b, Chick Webb-d, Ella Fitzgerald-voc). 12/17/1938

Chick Webb and Benny Goodman.
“The Time/ Life history of all things would have us believe that Goodman helped the country unwind with a new and thrilling music, which is true only in the sense that Columbus discovered America. The music wasn’t new, and some of the country had already unwound to it. Goodman, like Elvis twenty years later, adapted black music for white tastes. He toned it down, cleaned it up. Unlike Presley, he was willing to take risks with his celebrity.” – Gary Giddens

“Consider [Benny Goodman’s] hit version of Edgar Sampson’s ‘Don’t Be That Way,’ originally recorded by Chick Webb. Webb took the tempo way up and climaxed the performance with an explosive eight-bar drum solo. Goodman modified the tempo, streamlined the ensemble parts, introduced a famous fade-down in volume, and reduced the climax to a two-bar drum break by Gene Krupa that, because of its sudden intrusion, jolted the jitterbugs” – Gary Giddens

Don’t Be That Way. Chick Webb and His Orchestra
(Mario Bauza-tp, Bobby Stark-tp, Taft Jordan-tp/voc, Sandy Williams-tb, Claude Jones-tb, Pete Clark-cl/as, Edgar Sampson-as, Wayman Carver-fl/ts, Elmer Williams-ts, Don Kirkpatrick-p, John Trueheart-g, John Kirby-b, Chick Webb-d). 11/19/1934.
Don’t Be that Way. Benny Goodman and His Orchestra
(Harry James, Ziggy Elman, Chris Griffin-tp, Red Ballard, Vernon Brown-tb, Hymie Schertzer, George Koenig-as, Babe Russin, Arthur Rollini-ts, Jess Stacy-p, Allan Reuss-g, Harry Goodman-sb, Gene Krupa-d, Martha Tilton-voc). 2/16/1938.

Benny Goodman and Fletcher Henderson.
“If some of Goodman’s records are anemic copies of Henderson’s … others (‘Blue Skies,’ ‘Sometimes I’m Happy’) are exemplary interpretations, which is undoubtedly one reason Henderson enjoyed writing for him. Despite his apprenticeship in hot jazz, Goodman had a preternatural understanding of what a mass audience would accept.” – Gary Giddens

“The special nature of Henderson’s contribution lay in his access to a gold mine of material compiled during his own lengthy stint as a bandleader, as well as in his deep sensitivity to the swing style that was about to dominate American airwaves. And though Henderson was responsible for somewhat less than half of the band’s book, he was the source for many of the most memorable Goodman charts: ‘King Porter Stomp,’ ‘Sometimes I’m Happy,’ ‘Blue Skies,’ and ‘Christopher Columbus,’ among others.” – Ted Gioia

Blue Skies. Benny Goodman & His Orchestra
(Bunny Berigan, Nat Kazebier, Jerry Neary-tp, Red Ballard, Jack Lacey-tb, Toots Mondello, Hymie Schertzer-as, Arthur Rollini, Dick Clark-ts, Frank Froeba-p, George van Eps-g, Harry Goodman-b, Gene Krupa-d, Helen Ward-voc). 6/25/1935.
Sometimes I’m Happy. Benny Goodman & His Orchestra
(Bunny Berigan, Nat Kazebier, Ralph Muzillo-tp, Red Ballard, Jack Lacey-tb, Toots Mondello, Hymie Schertzer-as, Arthur Rollini, Dick Clark-ts, Frank Froeba-p, George van Eps-g, Harry Goodman-b, Gene Krupa-d, Helen Ward-voc). 7/1/1935.

Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall.
Benny Goodman took his band to Carnegie Hall in January of 1938 in what has been described as a “coming out party” for jazz, making a statement in the heart of respectable music. “This was a new experience—for both jazz fans and the players themselves. ‘How long do you want for intermission?’ Goodman was asked before the performance. ‘I dunno,’ he replied. ‘How much does Toscanini have?’’’ – Ted Gioia

Blue Room. Benny Goodman and his Orchestra.
(Chris Griffin, Ziggy Elman, Harry James-tp, Red Ballard, Vernon Brown-tb, George Koenig, Art Rollini, Babe Russin, Hymie Schertzer-reeds, Jess Stacy-p, Allan Reuss-g, Harry Goodman-b, Gene Krupa-d). 1/16/1938.
Sing Sing Sing. Benny Goodman and his Orchestra.
(Chris Griffin, Ziggy Elman, Harry James-tp, Red Ballard, Vernon Brown-tb, George Koenig, Art Rollini, Babe Russin, Hymie Schertzer-reeds, Jess Stacy-p, Allan Reuss-g, Harry Goodman-b, Gene Krupa-d). 1/16/1938.
Big John’s Special. Benny Goodman and his Orchestra.
(Chris Griffin, Ziggy Elman, Harry James-tp, Red Ballard, Vernon Brown-tb, George Koenig, Art Rollini, Babe Russin, Hymie Schertzer-reeds, Jess Stacy-p, Allan Reuss-g, Harry Goodman-b, Gene Krupa-d). 1/16/1938.

“Even a cursory list of Goodman’s achievements makes one sit up and take notice: as a soloist he defined the essence of the jazz clarinet as no other performer before or since; as a bandleader, he established standards of technical perfection that were the envy of his peers, while his influence in gaining widespread popularity for swing music was unsurpassed …” – Ted Gioia

In the next hour, we will turn to Billie Holiday, who first recorded with Bennie Goodman at age 18, and Ella Fitzgerald, who was discovered by Chick Webb, also at age 18. They are perhaps the two most important female singers to come out of the Swing Era.

Recordings.
Chick Webb – Rhythm Man. Hep CD 1023
Chick Webb – Strictly Jive. Hep CD 1063
Big Band: Vol. 065, Benny Goodman (1935). World’s Greatest Jazz Collection
Big Band: Vol. 070, Benny Goodman (1938). World’s Greatest Jazz Collection
Benny Goodman – Live at Carnegie Hall. Columbia 40244

Resources.
Kirchner, Bill (editor). 2000. The Oxford Companion To Jazz. New York, NY. The Oxford University Press.
“Streamlining Jazz: Major Soloists of the 1920s and 1930s” by John McDonough
Giddens, Gary & DeVeaux, Scott. 2009. JAZZ. New York, NY. WW Norton & Company.
Chapter 7. Swing Bands
Giddens, Gary. 1998. Visions of Jazz: The First Century. New York. The Oxford University Press.
Chapter 14. Chick Webb (King of the Savoy)
Chapter 17. Benny Goodman (The Mirror of Swing)
Gioia, Ted. 2011. The History of Jazz. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 5. The Swing Era
Morton, Brian & Cook, Richard. 2011. Penguin Jazz Guide, the History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums. New York, NY. Penguin Books.
Chick Webb – Rhythm Man
Chick Webb – Strictly Jive
Benny Goodman – Live at Carnegie Hall
Simon, George T. 1981. The Big Bands. New York. Schirmer Books.
Tackley, Catherine. 2012. Benny Goodman’s Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert. London, Oxford University Press.

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