Carnegie Hall Jazz revisited

Carnegie Hall Jazz revisited

By Mention the name Benny Goodman today, and most kids (from 10 years to 99) will nod their heads in recognition. Youngsters involved in jazz are generally aware of the famous clarinetist’s background, thanks to music directors throughout the country who lead some of the finest high school jazz bands and vocal groups through year-long jazz studies programs, rehearsals and regional performances. A prime example in our own area includes the work of Jazz Band Director Ken Stein, Rock Valley College; Director Kevin Jensen, Harlem High School Jazz Band; and his wife Amy Jensen, director, the Jazz Choir at Hononegah. Many parents, even grandparents of the same students, were lucky enough to witness Goodman’s genius in person somewhere in the U.S. and/or around the world, throughout his career.

By Matt P. Spinello

Music Critic

Mention the name Benny Goodman today, and most kids (from 10 years to 99) will nod their heads in recognition. Youngsters involved in jazz are generally aware of the famous clarinetist’s background, thanks to music directors throughout the country who lead some of the finest high school jazz bands and vocal groups through year-long jazz studies programs, rehearsals and regional performances. A prime example in our own area includes the work of Jazz Band Director Ken Stein, Rock Valley College; Director Kevin Jensen, Harlem High School Jazz Band; and his wife Amy Jensen, director, the Jazz Choir at Hononegah. Many parents, even grandparents of the same students, were lucky enough to witness Goodman’s genius in person somewhere in the U.S. and/or around the world, throughout his career.

Benny Goodman was born in Chicago in 1909 and grew up in the Maxwell Street area. He took up the clarinet at age 10 and formed his own orchestra in 1934. His 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert stands out as prominently today as the original performance in New York City 62 years ago, with appreciation extended to the thousands of musicians who have performed his work and emulated his style for several decades. Goodman’s work and stylized sound earned him the title “King of Swing.”

The Chicago Jazz Ensemble, led by William Russo, its founder and director, this year presents its second American Heritage Jazz Series, which started with the music of Stan Kenton in a perfectionized version of Kenton’s music spanning 50 years. The audience was awed at the evident familiarity the 20-member band had with the music and the oneness it shared through each selection. The Ensemble returns to Rockford College’s Maddox Theater this month to perform the Benny Goodman Carnegie Hall Concert. World-renowned clarinetist Buddy DeFranco will front the band and relive Goodman’s work.

DeFranco will appear with the unprecedented distinction of winning 20 DownBeat magazine awards, nine Metronome magazine awards and 16 Playboy magazine All-Star awards, as the number one jazz clarinetist in the world. His concert and recording appearances include engagements with stars like Billie Holiday; Count Basie; Nat King Cole; Charlie Parker; Dizzy Gillespie; Stan Getz; Lenny Tristano; Nelson Riddle; Billy Eckstine; Barney Kessel; Herb Ellis; Art Blakey; Mel Torme; Louis Bellson; Terry Gibbs; and Oscar Peterson. Buddy has recorded more than 150 albums during his career, making him the most-recorded jazz clarinetist since the Swing Era.

The 40-plus Rockford Jazz Society members in the audience at the Chicago Jazz Ensemble’s last performance here in September at Rockford College more than collectively agree that they expect to converge on the lobby of the Maddox Theater for the Goodman event, mostly as a follow-up to their thundering applause and standing ovation for the Ensemble’s last presentation.

For ticket information, contact Rockford College, or purchase tickets at the door. Adult tickets are $25; senior citizens, $20; and students, $15. The performance is scheduled for 7 p.m., Nov. 16 at Maddox Theater, Clark Arts Center, Rockford College, 5050 E. State St.

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