Benny Goodman: The Sound Of Music

The clarinettist's 1959 take on the famous film makes its CD debut and is joined by eight live, more jazz-oriented tracks by the same band from the same period


The original stage production of The Sound Of Music opened on Broadway on 16 November 1959. Goodman’s cover album (MGM SE3810), probably arranged to help promote the new show, was recorded four days later. (Earlier recordings had commenced on 11/12 November before the show’s opening but Benny, ever the perfectionist, was not happy with the studio sound, and these tracks were presumably discarded and lost.) The recordings subsequently made elsewhere on 20 November appear here on CD for the first time, plus eight bonus tracks by the same orchestra.

Boosted by the later film with Julie Andrews, many of these tunes have become very familiar popular standards. Arrangements by Fred Karlin, a new young face at the time, are interestingly varied, and particularly effective for The Sound Of Music, My Favorite Things (soon to be memorably recorded by John Coltrane) and Maria. The less familiar tunes which open the album are also effectively transformed into Goodman-style swing.

The old maestro is elegantly and impeccably assured at the helm, pre-eminent in every track. The excellent 10-piece orchestra, just returned from a European tour, was then resident at a New York club, Basin Street East, where the bonus tracks had been recorded live a week earlier. The jaunty and catchy No Way To Stop It is the only repeat from The Sound Of Music repertoire, though Climb Every Mountain, ending to warm applause, seems to have crept unheralded into the issued studio album. We are otherwise in familiar Goodman swingland territory.

Whereas not a great deal is heard from Benny’s talented sidesmen in solo work on the studio album, Flip Phillips and Bill Harris in particular are much more featured on the club swing session, with extended solos and exchanges in an upbeat Sleep. Flip, in fact,  gets a complete solo track on Sweet And Lovely. The orchestra swings along enjoyably throughout with integrated polish and warmth, and rides out in style, roaring agreeably in Benny’s riffing Basie-style 12-bar, Breakfast Feud.

Though not perhaps to be ranked with Goodman’s most notable achievements, these lesser-known recordings with top jazz artists of the day nevertheless make impressive and very enjoyable listening.

[The Sound Of Music] (1) No Way To Stop It; Sixteen Going On Seventeen; So Long Farewell; Climb Every Mountain; My Favorite Things; An Ordinary Couple; Maria; Do-Re-Mi; [Live At Basin Street East] (2) Let’s Dance; No Way To Stop It; Sleep; I Want To Be Happy; Gotta Be This Or That; Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea; Sweet And Lovely; Breakfast Feud (75.18)
Goodman and his orchestra: (1) Goodman (cl); Flip Phillips (ts); Jack Sheldon (t); Bill Harris (tb); Jerry Dodgion (as, f); Red Norvo (vib); Gene Di Novi (p); Jimmy Wyble (g); Red Wootten (b); John Markham (d). NY, 20 November 1959.
(2) as (1). Live at Basin Street East Club, NY, 13 November 1959.
Essential Jazz Classics EJC55755