LJF 2023: Pete Long plays Benny Goodman’s 1938 Carnegie concert

Clarinettist Pete Long and his Goodmen - including Enrico Tomasso and Anthony Kerr - recreated Goodman's influential 1938 NY performance

Peter Long. Photo © Brian O'Connor

The lot of the music reviewer is not, as may be supposed, roses all the way; consider, if you will, the case of a lifelong devotee of Artie Shaw – and one, furthermore, who thought Shaw made Goodman sound as if he was blowing a big end – finding himself, in the cause of his day job, attending a performance designed to laud that very same Goodman.

However, on at least two occasions Goodman furthered the cause of swing – with the 1935 gig at the Palomar ballroom in Los Angeles he introduced it to a wider public and with the 1938 concert at Carnegie Hall he made it respectable.

Pete Long led his band Pete Long & His Goodmen, which translates to Long on clarinet supplemented by three trumpets, two trombones, four reeds, piano, guitar, bass, drums and vibraphone – the line-up that featured in the celebrated concert – with Louise Cookman as Martha Tilton.

It seemed that rather than not being what it was, nostalgia is alive, well and living, albeit for one night only, at Cadogan Hall. Given that the original concert is now some 85 years old, it’s unrealistic to suppose any of the original auditors are still with us, which means, of course, that present-day auditors have, to a certain extent, to take it on trust that they’re getting the real McCoy, once removed. [However, it’s been available on record for examination and duplication since 1950. – Ed.]

It was difficult to fault the programme, whether full orchestra, trio, or quartet, and all the usual suspects were present and correct, from Don’t Be That Way through One O’Clock Jump and Avalon to the grand finale, Sing, Sing, Sing. On the whole the personnel made a decent enough fist of recreating the sound.

The only inauthentic note came from the top: the real Benny Goodman was humourless to the point where he could only see a joke by appointment whereas Mr. Long was an equal mix of musician and stand-up comedian. That to one side, the evening was a triumph, and a lot of happy bunnies went home with smiles on their faces.

Pete Long & His Goodmen playing the Benny Goodman Orchestra’s famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert as part of the London Jazz Festival. Cadogan Hall, Sloane Terrace, Chelsea, 18 November 2023.