In the wake of the ICCC Jazz Competition, I've made it my business to pay more attention to my fellow judges' websites--to check out what they're up to, the projects they've been involved with, and dig into their thoughts.
Ken Peplowski's website is a treasure trove of interesting content--well worth investigating. For the historically minded there is a very insightful interview on Ken's blog, conducted by Jesse Cloninger, entitled "My ABSOLUTELY Last Words on Benny Goodman!"
I clicked on it, expecting to find a short statement or two about how annoying it is to always have to answer questions or be compared to Goodman as a jazz clarinetist. Instead I found one of the most cogent appreciations and summaries of Goodman's actual importance to the world of band leading, arranging, style, and culture.
As one who has played in many symphony orchestras, I've always felt there was a double standard regarding Benny Goodman and music historians. Dictatorial conductors such a George Szell (horror stories of whom still abound in Cleveland) are venerated; their means of attaining their artistic ends generally considered justified by the results. They are praised for their unyielding commitment to their artistic goals and vision. But no such recognition is accorded Goodman by most historical accounts. Yet the recordings speak for themselves: his band swung like no other; they were tighter and the clarity of musical thought largely unmatched in any era. Isn't that worthy of note? And if the "Goodman Ray" played a part in attaining those ends, is that a reason to condemn Benny or praise him?
These thoughts have rattled around my mind for decades. Ken Peplowski tackles these issues and more in this brief interview. As a player who worked with Goodman, he is able to remark upon Benny's unique abilities as a leader like no other.
I encourage readers to check out the interview (linked above). Not only does it frame Goodman in a more reasonable and appropriate light, it gives insight into the priorities of a master musician--even suggesting ways we might maintain this art of jazz.