Benny Goodman

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Goodman, Benny

(Benjamin David Goodman), 1909–86, American clarinetist, composer, and band leader, b. Chicago. Goodman studied clarinet at Hull House. In Chicago he had the opportunity to hear (and eventually to play beside) some of the outstanding jazz musicians of the era. He played the clarinet for many years in Chicago and later in California. In 1928 he went to New York City, where in 1934 he organized his own orchestra. In 1935 he formed the Benny Goodman trio with Gene Krupa and Teddy Wilson; it became a quartet in 1936 when Lionel Hampton joined it. Performing for radio, motion pictures, and records, Goodman's orchestra became nationally famous. After 1939 he became known as the King of Swing. In the 1950s Goodman's many tours abroad gained him international esteem. He also achieved success playing classical music for clarinet, particularly with the Budapest String Quartet. He commissioned Béla Bartók to compose Contrasts, for violin, clarinet, and piano, in 1938. Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, and Morton Gould wrote music for him. Goodman wrote The Kingdom of Swing (1939) with Irving Kolodin.


See bio-discographies by D. R. Connor (1958 and 1969); study by J. L. Collier.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Goodman, Benny


(full name, Benjamin David Goodman). Born May 30, 1909, in Chicago. American clarinetist and jazz-band leader.

Goodman was born into the family of a Russian emigrant. At the age of ten he began to study the clarinet, and at 12 he began to perform classical and contemporary music as a virtuoso clarinetist. At 15 he became a professional performer of popular dance music. In 1934 he organized a band that mastered the repertoire and style of the new trend in Negro jazz—so-called swing. By opening up new forms of Negro music for broad sectors of the public, Goodman contributed to the development of jazz. Together with Negro improvisa-tional groups, he created a number of jazz chamber works. He also appeared in films. Goodman toured the Soviet Union in 1962.


The Kingdom of Swing. New York [1961]. (With I. Kolodin.)


Pereverzev, L. “Benni Gudman i ego orkestr.” Muzykal’naia zhizn’, 1962, no. 12.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Goodman, (Benjamin David) Benny

(1909–86) jazz musician; born in Chicago. He was raised in a poor immigrant family, received early clarinet lessons at Hull House, and studied privately with Franz Schoepp. He joined the musicians' union and began playing professionally at age 13, and in 1925 he joined Ben Pollack's orchestra, working with it in California, Chicago, and New York until 1929. He played with Red Nichols from 1929 to 1930, and for the next four years he worked as a Broadway and radio-studio musician, and appeared on numerous free-lance jazz recordings, including several under his own leadership. He formed his first regular orchestra in 1934 for Billy Rose's Music Hall, which broadcast weekly from New York on the Let's Dance coast-to-coast radio show. In August 1935, near the end of an otherwise uneventful national tour, the band began a residency at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles; this was to prove the turning point in Goodman's career and a cornerstone of the Swing era. Playing before wildly enthusiastic audiences, he achieved national fame, and through constant media attention, was dubbed the "King of Swing". In 1936 the band made its first film appearance, The Big Broadcast of 1937, and during that year Goodman introduced his trailblazing, racially-integrated quartet, featuring Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton, as an adjunct to his big band. In 1937, his engagement at the Paramount Theatre in New York was phenomenally successful, and in 1938 he played his celebrated Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert with guest artists from Duke Ellington and Count Basie's bands. His big band and small groups remained peak attractions until 1944, when he disbanded and for several years led a series of combos in a bop-oriented style. During the 1940s, he also moved increasingly into the world of classical music, playing concerts with José Iturbi in 1942 and commissioning Bela Bartok to write "Contrasts for clarinet, violin, and piano" in 1947. Throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, he led his own highly successful big bands and small groups on regular national and international tours. In 1955, he recorded the soundtrack for the Hollywood motion picture, The Benny Goodman Story, which featured Steve Allen in the title role. In 1962, under the sponsorship of the U.S. State Department, his orchestra became the first American jazz ensemble to tour the Soviet Union. He reduced his touring schedule by the 1980s, but continued to play brilliantly on all-star concert appearances and with a small group of young musicians up to his death.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
References in periodicals archive ?
Add to this music by the Benny Goodman Orchestra and Laughter on the 23rd Floor promises an evening of first-class entertainment.
Closing the evening was the premiere of Peter Pucci's Size Nine Spirit (originally titled Roll 'Em), set to music played (on tape, like all the program's accompaniment) by the Benny Goodman Orchestra. Using social dance infused with ballet, Pucci seeks not period-perfect style but a hybrid that reflects the enduring spirit of swing in dance today.
Peplowski, a boffo clarinet player who used to perform with the Benny Goodman Orchestra, says he's glad that most of the work of organization takes place well in advance.