Nuances, Fine Points and Subtle DistinctionsOct 08, 2019
The steam tunnels below my small and relatively elite southern New England alma mater were home to many corridors of evidently sanctioned, or at least tolerated, student grafitti, my favorite instance of which was a neatly painted bit of lettering reading simply, "Milt Jackson On Vibes." I think by then I was already hip to the Modern Jazz Quartet and their double LP Live In Europe, but had yet to discover Jackson's worthy predecessor, Lionel Hampton, whose work I wouldn't stumble across until I heard the Benny Goodman Sextet recordings with Charlie Christian. As I write this, I'm grooving to one of my latest Spotify finds, the Columbia Jazz Masterpieces reissue Benny Goodman: Small Groups 1941-1945. Until now, I've always viewed any Benny Goodman records without Charlie Christian as a waste of time on a par with Allman Brothers records lacking Duane Allman. And yet, putting together the Fingerstyle Five material (more on that in a moment) has got my ears more dialed in than usual to swing-era ensemble sounds in general and the nuances of those ensembles' arrangements in particular. So these later Goodman recordings, though they have less star power than the earlier small group stuff (no Teddy Wilson, Hampton or Christian, much less Count Basie or Cootie Williams) are still plenty hot and entertaining.