Review: Benny Goodman & Glenn Miller's Famous 1939 Carnegie Hall Concert

Reviews from our Cadogan Hall shows (including for the London Jazz Festival) and other London concerts, theatre shows, and jazz festivals around the world. 

Reviews from our Cadogan Hall shows (including for the London Jazz Festival) and other London concerts, theatre shows, and jazz festivals around the world. 

Three things stand out in this wonderful series of recreations by Richard Pite’s Jazz Repertory Company. The chutzpah of the promoters/producers, the complexity of the original arrangements and the affection and enthusiasm with which those arrangements are played. Also one should mention that these concerts are never less than pretty full, even if they aren’t all sold out, a tribute to the way in which they are programmed, the sheer strength of the mailing list and its marketing, and the loyalty with which that mailing list responds. OK, so most of the audience is the north side of 60, but then so is the music. They know what to expect and they get it, even to the unamplified sections, as in the original performances.

 

Skilfully linked by Musical Director and MC Pete Long, whose style is informative and  humorous  (he even had the old dears, of whom I am one, doing a version of the Twist at one stage) the full BG Orchestra stormed happily through an 8-number programme from “Don’t Be That Way” via “Bach Goes to Town” to “Sing, Sing, Sing”, before bringing on Rico Tomasso to present his impressive Louis Armstrong 1939 concert , cornet and voice included. “Always a pleasure” as Roger Horton has been known to say.


Part Two opened with tributes to the Kansas City Six and the Benny Goodman Sextet, which featured Mr Long as Benny Goodman. His assurance and

technique are astounding and his tone and jazz feel fit the idiosyncrasies of his subject perfectly. Good to hear vibraphone player Anthony Kerr again now playing even more phenomenally than then, which is saying something.  As mentioned, it was interesting and instructive to hear the Miller tunes in close-up, so to speak, rather than on the Dansette. The arrangements are a deal more profound and elegant than remembered when first heard seventy years ago, and don’t deserve the derision with which they are sometimes held by some jazzers.

 

 Question. How do the organisers of such concerts manage to get all these terrific musicians together for performances, let alone gather them up for rehearsals? It’s a miracle!

Review: Benny Goodman & Glenn Miller's 1939 Big Band Battle At Durham Festival

Durham Brass Festival 2015 presented a recreation of the legendary 1939 Carnegie Hall showdown between Benny Goodman – the King of Swing – and the latest challenger to his throne – Glenn Miller. The Gala Theatre near to capacity, the band’s MC Pete Long said it seemed rather odd to be playing a concert at two o’clock on a summer’s afternoon. The orchestra comprised many of the big hitters on the London scene.

 

One O’clock Jump made the joint jump. Trumpet section work of the highest order, led by Nathan Bray, featured the first of several superb solos from George Hogg. To their left stood Ryan Quigley – the betting was he wasn’t on the gig for the ride. A box of fireworks was surely at his feet.

 

MC Long is a fine soloist. He featured in a Goodman trio setting on China Boy – clarinet, piano and drums.  Long also possesses a dry, witty line in repartee. He introduced the boy band singer…the ever-youthful Chris Dean.  A tremendous trombone player, Dean could sing alright. The Goodman set flew by…


Down South Camp Meeting (cue innuendo from the mischievous Long) and a scorching Sing Sing Sing brought the curtain down on a fine first set.

 Interval chatter in the bar – a good set, great players…oh, Miller next! Well, don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it. Moonlight Serenade – the first few bars, then Running Wild with big tenor from Dean Masser. 

 

A further vocal feature for the boy band singer Chris Dean on a well-received Stairway to the Stars highlighted Pete Long’s observation that the musicians on stage at the Gala were the same –  yet the sound was different due to their musicianship and the material they were playing. Long’s comment that Miller delivered a punter-friendly sound, and that he was clever in doing so, registered with your reviewer. Goodman played jazz, but so too Miller in his own way, with, as Long said, ‘the rough edges taken off it’. Certainly this ‘mature’ Gala Theatre audience loved every tune, be it Goodman or Miller.   In the Mood…walking sticks waving, zimmer frames discarded, they were up – slowly – reliving something or other. A finale heard the same tune twice. Clever stuff from Long. Bugle Call Rag Miller-style, then by way of comparison, the Goodman take.  Hear the difference! Hear Ryan Quigley. Didn’t you know he’d try and blow the roof off?!

 

 The main man driving, if not conducting, the whole thing, Richard Pite gave a flawless performance. One remarkable feature of this Durham Brass Festival concert…the entire band played acoustically, including double bassist Calum Gourlay! It just goes to show, volume isn’t everything.  A rare treat.

Pete Long (MC & clarinet), Dean Masser (tenor saxophone & clarinet), Paul Nathaniel (tenor saxophone & clarinet), Colin Skinner (alto & clarinet), Peter Ripper (alto saxophone & clarinet),  (alto saxophone & clarinet),  George Hogg (trumpet), Nathan Bray (trumpet), Ryan Quigley (trumpet), Chris Dean (trombone & vocals), Andy Flaxman (trombone), Callum Au (trombone),  (guitar), Bunny Thompson (piano), Calum Gourlay (double bass) & Richard Pite (drums).

 

Review from Be-Bop Spoken Here