Various Artists | The Benny Goodman Story/The Glenn Miller Story | Hot Records HRS111 | TT47:20 | 18 tracks | 2009
Long before the likes of Walk The Line and Crazy Heart, Hollywood covered the stories of America’s biggest musical talents with biopics of their lives and careers. In 1954 and 1956 Universal International Pictures (as it was known for a spell) created movies about two icons of American music, Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman.
1954’s The Glenn Miller Story saw James Stewart star as the immensely popular bandleader, whose music defined an era and kept spirits up during World War II. It was while doing his own bit for the war effort, having signed up to the US Army in 1942, that Miller lost his life in a plane crash over the English Channel. A couple of years later the writer of the Miller film, Valentine Davies, directed The Benny Goodman Story which starred Steve Allen as the virtuoso Clarinetist and eminent swing-band leader.
Hot Records have recently released both original soundtracks in one double-disc set and it’s a fine production indeed. Both soundtracks were notable at the time for their exact recreation of the sounds of their inspiration. For The Glenn Miller Story Joseph Gershenson immersed himself in the music of the great man and put the Universal-International Studio Orchestra, not to mention many original band members, through their paces to create the ultimate musical celebration and recreation of the classic Glenn Miller sound. The result is marvellous and that era-defining blend of instrumentation and pacing makes for a very enjoyable listen on album. Classic after classic are presented in the all-too-short selection, with the likes of ‘Little Brown Jug’, ‘In The Mood’, ‘St. Louis Blues’, ‘Pennsylvania 6-5000’ and the ultra-classy ‘Moonlight Serenade’ standing out and reminding us just how brilliant Miller and his band really were.
Unlike Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman was thankfully still alive and well in 1956 when it came time to re-create his own sound for the film of his life. Goodman gathered bandmates from over the years to recreate The Benny Goodman Orchestra, not to mention The Benny Goodman Octet, Trio and Quartet. With that in mind, the selection truly is as legitimate as they come and like the Miller soundtrack, it’s a wonderful, sepia-toned, easy selection and one which really raises a smile and gets the toes tapping. The sound is so classic and while I’m not a fan of Jazz proper, this easy-listening swing, so characteristic of another time and place is enough to whisk this 28 year old up and away with its delightful melody, rhythm and colour. The selection from Goodman is far longer than the other disc, and the highlights keep on coming with ‘One O’Clock Jump’, ‘Goody Goody’ (performed in Mrs. Henderson Presents is you remember?), ‘Stompin’ at the Savoy’ and the very classic ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’ just a handful of the dizzying highlights.
This won’t be eveyrone’s cup of tea of course, but as an historical document these recordings are very special and I’m really pleased that Hot Records have been able to make them available once again. It almost makes you want to dance… now where did I put my spats..?