In 2006, I had the very good fortune to be put in charge of the Jazz Orchestra at Ronnie Scott's. Leo Green was running things back then, and he wanted me to put on a series of themed concerts, which I did. I got together for the first run of shows an evening of Tubby Hayes, Stan Kenton, Harry James, Quincy Jones, and a recreation of Benny Goodman's 1938 Carnegie Hall concert. It was quite a struggle amassing all the sheet music, and one night at the Concorde Club doing my Ellington show, I mentioned to Cole Mathieson, the owner, that I had Benny's 1938 concert sat in a box in the cupboard under the stairs, next to the Christmas decorations and the broken fan, which still needs to go to the menders. He booked it in there and then, (the show, not the fan) and it turned out that quite a lot of others were interested too. Before I knew it, I had what amounted to a tour on my hands, and so without really meaning to do it, I was taking Benny's amazing music all over the UK.
One of the salient features of our concerts is that we present the music as Benny did, only cheaper. By this I mean there is no amplification of any kind save for the announcing microphone. Because we have such great musicians in Britain these days, it is possible to re-create the scores to a high level of accuracy, both stylistically and technically. The big band selections on this recording were done in exactly the same way- no screens or headphones in the studio, and everyone free to balance their own part the natural way. I hope that you find the performance cohesion that this brings as satisfying as we all did on that rainy day in Croydon.
There are two small bands featured here also, all recorded on the same day as the big band. Again these grew up around me, as demands for Goodman re-creations kept coming my way. Not every club or dance venue has the room or the budget for the big band, so I have learnt to present Goodman's music in combo form. "Ding Dong Daddy" is a great example of how we go about the Fire And Brimstone approach of Benny's early quartet, and Anthony Kerr and I have had an awful lot of fun stretching the idiom to bring you items like "Venus"
I really hope you enjoy our selection here, and once I saved up enough money, I'll do you another one!
Croydon, January 1, 2018