by Mike Corrigan
The King of Swing is one of those monikers that gets tossed around in movies and pop culture without much thought. But this week THE SPOKANE JAZZ ORCHESTRA pays tribute to the original King of Swing, Benny Goodman.
The SJO has made a tradition of doing a concert each year to honor one of the great figures in jazz, but for Music Director Dan Keberle, choosing Benny Goodman for this year's concert was a no-brainer. "I could almost do a tribute to him every year, there's so much," says Keberle. "His band was really regarded as the best band of that era."
Goodman, born in 1909 in Chicago, fought his way from poverty to popularity by making the most of the breaks that did come his way. He learned to play clarinet well enough to join the Ben Pollack Orchestra at age 16. In 1934, during the Great Depression, he formed his own band and began to win over music lovers both on the radio and in live performance. Goodman was trained in both jazz and classical clarinet, which made his cachet with the musical audiences of his time all the more valuable. But it was Goodman's sound under the umbrella of "swing" that made him a hit.
Goodman, who was Jewish, also made history in being the first band leader to integrate his ensemble. "He was the first one," explains Keberle. "He hired pianist Teddy Wilson, who was African-American, to play in his combo." Wilson was followed by other musicians, including Lionel Hampton.
Until recently, Goodman's arrangements have been pretty hard for groups like the Spokane Jazz Orchestra to come by, but recently the music became easier to purchase. "Yale University has made all this music available to the public so we can do them," explains Keberle. "The arrangements are all authentic; that's what makes it really special."
Another thing that makes this concert special for Keberle is that his brother is one of the guest performers. "It's my older brother David," Keberle says. "We're also having a vocalist, Charlotte Carruthers, singing three pieces that Peggy Lee used to sing with Goodman's band."
This is not the elder Keberle's first appearance with the Spokane Jazz Orchestra. "He did this concert with SJO a few years ago, not all the same pieces," explains Dan Keberle. "It was one of the big talked-about concerts of that time."
David Keberle's expertise goes far beyond jazz clarinet. He is also an internationally known professor and composer. "He's probably equally a clarinetist and a composer," says Dan Keberle. "In fact, his job at University of Pittsburgh is to teach composition and music theory."
Like Goodman, David Keberle has been trained in many styles of music. "[David's] always done both classical and jazz music on his clarinet, so it's sort of a good fit," says Dan Keberle. David Keberle's own compositions are very modern, but the focus of this performance will be all swing.
The first half will feature arrangements done by the bands of swing-era artists such as Glenn Miller, Harry James, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington and Count Basie. The second half is all Goodman. "We're kind of taking a little bit from several of the other bands so the audience can sample some of the music of the time," explains Keberle. "It's going to be a lot of fun, and a lot of variety."
The SJO presents a "Tribute to Benny Goodman" on Saturday, Oct. 27, at 8 pm. Tickets: $15-$20. Call: 325-SEAT.
THE GUESS WHO (originally from Winnipeg, Ontario) first leapt from provincial Canadian success into the No. 1 slot in the U.S. charts in 1970 with the driving, psychedelic rocker, "American Woman." On the surface, the song was a fuzzed-out kiss-off and androgen-fueled ode to male independence. But it was also construed by many as a thinly veiled indictment of American imperialism. In any case, it instantly established the band as a formidable, hard-rocking machine -- a slightly less dazzling, North American meat-and-potatoes answer to British counterparts like the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream.
At the peak of the group's success in the early '70s, co-founder and guitarist Randy Bachman exited to form Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Vocalist Burton Cummings left the Guess Who in 1975 and the group as a hit-making dynamo passed into history.
Tuesday night, the Guess Who, sporting three of its original founding members (Bachman, Cummings and drummer Gary Peterson) will resurrect the hits that made them famous, including "No Time," "These Eyes" and "Share the Land." Fans who followed Bachman's career through the BTO years will be treated to hits from that band as well ("Taking Care of Business" and, of course, the stutter-nugget adopted by Al Gore last year, "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet").
Co-headliner Joe Cocker will also perform, lending his famously raspy pipes and disturbingly twitchy delivery to renditions of such hits as "You Are So Beautiful" and "Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong."
The Guess Who and Joe Cocker perform at the Spokane Arena on Tuesday, Oct. 30, at 8 pm. Tickets: $37.50-$49.50. Call 325-SEAT.
Hey, just a quick heads-up for all you heavy rock kids out there looking for some thunderous, metallic action before you get set for tricks or treats. Friday night, Outback Jack's and Rock 94.5 are hosting a full-on HALLOWEEN BASH at the Kangaroo Club featuring live music by local notables Five Foot Thick, Clintch and Two-Headed Chang. Also on tap are a couple of travelling bands, Surrounded By Idiots and Church of Hate. Tickets are available at Outback's, and be forewarned: they're going fast. Scary!
Five Foot Thick, Clintch, Surrounded By Idiots, Church of Hate and Two-Headed Chang at Outback Jack's on Friday, Oct. 26, at 9 pm. Tickets: $9.45. Call: 624-4549.