Term Paper: Benny Goodman's Style of Music

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Benny Goodman's Style Of Music

Benny Goodman's Disciplined and Multi-Faceted Musical Style

Benny Goodman is one of the biggest names in not only jazz, but also American popular music as well. Born in 1909, he is most known for his work as a composer and jazz clarinetist; however, he was also an excellent saxophone master and classical musician as well. Throughout the years, Goodman's musical evolution included stylistic elements of classical, New Orleans jazz, big band, more intimate combos, and bop music. He is said by many to be the master of big-band swing music, but also explored smaller combos in which he gave great showcases to upcoming artists. The disciplined and multi-faceted nature of his stylistic techniques proves his mastery as an artist and earns him his enormous reputation.

Most Americans remember Goodman both for his composing and his mastery of clarinet in big band compositions. In fact he is known world-wide for his compositions and influence as a big band leader. He transcended the fate of many great jazz artists when he broke into mainstream music. He avoided a life of obscurity, like many of both his predecessors and disciples, and reached immense fame of great American charts. He has recorded with American favorites, such as Billie Holiday. Transcending his genre, Goodman also became one of the most prominent influences of jazz clarinetists. However, not many have seen the evolution of Goodman's style through the years. This evolution and development of a variety of styles is what makes him such an accomplished musician.

The first style to characterize the musical prowess of the great Benny Goodman is that of classical clarinet. Very early on in his career as a musician, Goodman studied classical Clarinet with Franz Schoepp (Groove Music, 2008). Later in his career, Goodman occasionally returned to his classical roots to continue to develop his skills within the genre. In 1935, he privately played Mozart's Clarinet Quintet, which he also recorded several years later. Throughout his life, he perfected a "legitimate," (Groove Music, 2008), and masterful technique on the clarinet while incorporating fundamental elements of his classical training.

This early training was also responsible for his love for jazz coming out of New Orleans in the beginning of his stint as a professional musician. During his time spent in the "Austin High School Gang," Goodman imitated the style of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, (Grove Music, 2008). He was heavily influenced by the group's clarinetist, Leon Roppolo. His style also reflected the influences of other greats out of New Orleans such as Sydney Bechet, Louis Armstrong, and King Oliver. This style incorporated elements of upbeat tempos, brass band roots, and ragtime improvisations. Goodman was later influenced by the style of Bix Biederbecke after the two clarinetists met in 1923. This influence was responsible for Goodman's "on-the-beat attacks, careful choice of notes, and across-the-bar phrasings on his recordings in 1928 of a Jazz Holiday and Blue," (Groove Music, 2008). During this period, he was also known for his solo skills on both the alto and baritone saxophone. He was heavily influenced by the dark, warm tone of clarinetist Jimmy Noone, (Gridley, 2005).

Later in the 1920's and early into the 30's, Goodman mainly played as a prominent and highly desired freelance musician. He did a lot of studio work for major radio stations and Broadway productions, such as Richard Whitling's 1931 production of Free for All, (Groove Music, 2008). In 1934, he landed the spot on NBC Radio's production Last Dance.

Goodman transitioned into the world of swing and big band after he formed his first big band in 1934. This early group incorporated twelve musicians, including saxophones, three trumpets, two trombones, and four rhythm musicians for recordings with Colombia Records. Compositions for this group were mainly written by the great Fletcher Henderson, who was famous for works such as Jelly Roll Morton's King Porter Stomp, (Groove Music, 2008). The band showed great charisma along with dedicated discipline within the group. Here he began his tradition of encouraging his musicians to rise to his skill level, which later became a staple of his compositions. Big bans were usually made up of ten or more musicians grouped into three sections based on individual instruments, (McGridley, 2005). The first section was the rhythm sections, composed of piano, guitar, bass, and drums. The brass section included trumpets and trombones.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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