Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Benny Goodman In Moscow (1962) (LP only)

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.

6 comments:

  1. Wow, looks like you stumbled upon a hidden gem! Sounds very intriguing both from a musical and historical perspective. I'm not big into swing, but this is one I wouldn't mind having.

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  2. At age 12-14 I grew up with the Mission to Moscow LP. I think I wore the grooves right out of it! Most incredible album I've ever listened to.

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  3. I agree that the LP is history.
    I have preserved a RCA 7 1/2 ips stereo tape (RCA FTO-6003)"Red Seal", bought in Stockholm in 1968.I always used (and renewed)a K7 copy to listen to the show, recorded in Moscow during the last week of the tour.Most notably, only three of Benny's old arrangements are in the recordings (four channel tapes, poor piano, rich metals. Oh God!).
    When K7 was to die, my Sony 68 tape recorder was long dead.
    In 99 I retired and Pentium 3 was born. With 500Mhz P3, I thought to learn to capture and digitalize the still very good tape (31 years).
    With a rented old big AKAY and some software... there it is, the complete show rests on a CD. The piano's solo can be heard.
    Of course, if some of you contact RCA and they show interest in use CD and/or tape, in the benefit of Band's history and for the delight of our grandson... For a legal representative of the company that has the right for such recordings, I will transfer the tape and a copy of the CD at no cost, provided that I'm authorized to keep a personal copy of the CD.
    Funny, but the initial reason why I started that comment was to desagree on that the soviets INVITED the US band and that most of the show participants were not used to jazz, swing etc.
    It took more than a decade to hardly negotiate the "invitation". And soviets of all age used to listen US jazz through short wave radio transmission from France, oriental european and north african countries. The tape shows that "Benny Goodmona", Phil Woods, Zoot Sims, Joe Newman and Teddy Wilson were long know as top players.

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    1. My comments about the Soviet government inviting the band were straight from the LP's liner notes.

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  4. RCA in Italy or England or some place did a reissue on CD, omitting any reference to Moscow - they called it "16 Classic Tracks" or something. It's down in the car right now, so i am vague on the details.

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  5. I just found one of these in a Salvation Army and I'm loving every minute of it. Mine's in a bit rougher shape, but the records play fine. This album is truly fantastic.

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