Benny Goodman's 1962 visit to the U.S.S.R. was the first time a jazz band from the United States toured the country at the invitation of the Soviet government. It was also the first time an American jazz band was recorded there in concert. The King Of Swing assembled a big band that played to an audience that was mostly unfamiliar with the genre.
Benny Goodman In Moscow is a double live LP released on RCA Records shortly after the tour. No CD has ever been released in America and only a bootleg version has ever been issued in Europe. According to Ken Dryden, writer for the All Music Guide, the bootleg CD omits a couple of tracks, and has mistakes in the liner notes, so if you can find a copy of this extremely rare LP you've uncovered a gem.
For many reasons this is a big band jazz recording worth hearing. The sound quality of the performance is exceptional, and not just when compared to the recording standards of the day. Then, of course, there is the music. Goodman aficionados may be pleasantly surprised because there are only a smattering of tunes from his classic 1930’s period. The album opens with a very brief version of his theme, "Let’s Dance," followed by his war time hit "Mission To Moscow." There is an arrangement of "One O'Clock Jump" that almost rocks and a full version of his closing theme "Goodbye." Most of the rest is more modern jazz of the period, much of it arranged by his younger band members that included a pre-Tonight show Tommy Newsom on saxophone. Pianist Teddy Wilson, of the original Goodman trio, is there too gently swinging with a quintet that was one of the smaller groups culled from the larger orchestra.
Other famous jazz musicians who were part of Goodman's band on this tour were pianist/arranger John Bunch, Mel Lewis on drums, Phil Woods on alto sax, and Zoot Sims on tenor.
I found my used copy for sale in a woman's cellar more than a decade ago. The cover, liner notes, and records are in remarkably good condition and very listenable. I recently burned the records to CD for future enjoyment but that shouldn't be necessary. RCA needs to open their archives and issue this album on CD. Big band fans and lovers of classic jazz would open their wallets immediately.