Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Julian Bliss Septet: A Tribute to Benny Goodman

Signum Classics
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: A Tribute to Benny Goodman

Signum Classics is a British label and Julian Bliss, born in the United Kingdom in 1989, is an internationally famed clarinetist; he also designed a range of clarinets for Conn/Selmer that bear his name. He was a child prodigy, performing in public at the age of 5, who became much better known for his work with concert and  symphony orchestras than as a leader of jazz combos. 

At the age of 7, during a trip to New York City, Bliss heard — and fell in love with — Benny Goodman, thanks to a CD the boy purchased as a souvenir. That was it: Bliss had found his bliss. Years later, still enthralled, he decided to do something about it. With the support of arranger Neal Thornton, Bliss selected a baker’s dozen of Goodman hits, formed a septet, and recorded this album.

Jazz has taken many forms over the years. Some are “locale” related — Chicago, Kansas City, East Coast, West Coast — while others have been “time” related: 4 to the bar, 2 to the bar, and so forth. Goodman was part of the swing era, which was most often “4 to the bar” dance and pop. It was an infectious and wonderful genre, and those who lived through that period still miss it. 

Bliss has revived it in this tribute album.

You’ll recognize many of these tunes. “Don’t Be That Way,” “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” “Seven Come Eleven” and “Soft Winds” are Goodman classics, written in conjunction with (respectively) Edgar Sampson, Charlie Christian and Fred Royal; all were members of Benny’s band at one time or another. These and others on this album — “Up a Lazy Rive,” “Lady Be Good,” “Here’s That Rainy Day” — are done under their original titles, but their chord structures have been utilized to create “new” tunes within the bop genre.

Every member of Bliss’ septet obviously had a great time during this recording session. If you’re from my generation, you’ll experience the same thrill.

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