Benny Goodman

Clarinetist, composer, conductor and true media star, the one nicknamed the King of Swing strongly marked the beginning of the swing era.

Benny Goodman was also one of the first to bring together black and white musicians in his bands.

Born in 1909 in Chicago, Benjamin David Goodman began playing clarinet in the Kehelah Jacob Synagogue Orchestra at the age of eleven and became a professional three years later. A pupil of Franz Schoepp (with Jimmie Noone and Buster Bailey), he joined Ben Pollack's orchestra in 1925 and took part in the effervescent musical life of Chicago, in the clubs and on the ships that plied the Great Lakes.

In 1929, he moved to New York City where he became a conductor and freelance musician. In the 1930s, he was increasingly in demand on Broadway: on the radio, for recording sessions (with Ted Lewis, Eddie Lang...) and musicals. During this period he founded small formations (trios, quartets, quintets, sextets) original by their orchestral style but also by the presence of black musicians, at a time when racial segregation was in full swing. The consecration came in 1938, when he was invited to perform at New York's Carnegie Hall, until then reserved for classical music. As the star of the radio show Let's Dance, Benny Goodman played a major role in the birth of swing.

Thanks to his technique and his supple phrasing, he pushes the advances of Bechet, Bigard and Bailey further, to create a personal game, seducing by its velocity and a certain preciousness. Tours across the United States will confirm his success and associate his name with the birth of a new style of large orchestra and the recognition of the clarinet in jazz. He also became the ambassador of his favourite clarinet around the world: the Selmer Centered Tone.

Photo credit: © Brian McMillen

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