Sunday, May 31, 2009

Benny Goodman's Centennial - May 30, 2009

I don't remember what got me into big band music. I think it was seeing the movie The Glenn Miller Story as a kid. While the movie was full of fiction, the music was a revelation to me. I rediscovered it in my twenties listening to it on an eight track tape while delivering groceries for Roche Bros. supermarket in Boston.

I do remember, however, when I became obsessed with with this musical genre. I took a ride on the "Dream Boat," which was a party boat that cruised in Boston Harbor in the evening with the Bo Winniker Swing Orchestra providing the entertainment. I went by myself, since I didn't know anybody else who enjoyed this style of music.

It was a delightful night. The music was great. They played all the hits. In the Mood, Take the A Train, Begin the Beguine, etc., etc. But I have to say that one of the greatest musical experiences of my life was when the struck up Sing, Sing, Sing, a thrilling 8 minute song with a drum solo made famous by Gene Krupa. It was the last song of the night and they timed it perfectly as the cruise made its way to dock. The boat was rockin' and I saw God.

Many years later, I saw Benny Goodman's last performance at Wolftrap in June of 1986. He died a few days after the concert on June 13th. I remember thinking during a couple of the hot numbers that he was risking his health his playing was so vigorous for a 77 year old man. Apparently, he was a pretty grumpy guy in person, but he must have gone out happy that he was playing to the end.

He was an incredible musician and his music never, never gets old.

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