27. Benny Goodman / Vol II: Clarinet a la King (1989)
A great "best of" set with sides dating from 1939 to 1941, with Georgie Auld, Ziggy Elman, Charlie Christian, guest Cootie Williams, and many others. The previously unissued master of "Henderson Stomp" with Fletcher himself on piano is a fine highlight, so is "Zaggin' with Zig," after Ziggy Elman and "Solo Flight," a spotlight for Charlie Christian. The band is hot but the arrangements make the whole thing work, and I enjoy the creative ways the reeds play against the brass. In this era trumpets had a more diverse assortment of techniques to work with, either open or with mutes, and listening to the soloist use these in different contexts is exciting. Helen Forrest and Peggy Lee sing guest spots that buoy the program. Forrest has a bell like quality after the band's second chorus on "Bewitched," singing higher and clearer than before, a tone parallel to the upper register of Goodman's clarinet. The music is ebullient and uplifting, the lyrics coy or sassy ("It Never Entered My Mind," "Yes My Darling Daughter") with lots of lift and plenty of
volume. It's easy to see how kids could dance to the stuff.