From the Record Shelves #219

China Boy

LP RCA Victor Vintage Series LPM 521

Today I enjoy the virtuosity of Benny Goodman and his small group members. Virtuosity must be combined with other things to get my attention in more than, say, twenty second. And here the combination is that it is fresh and something new. The format with a clarinet trio was earlier used to nearly perfection by Jelly Roll Morton. When Benny Goodman, for a session could put aside his business of leading a big band and get loose, playing pure jazz, the result became historical, timeless recordings.

In fact, they do not show off all the time; they show their high class by sometimes sticking close to the melody or just choosing to play with simplicity. And they also play the blues, even hinting at Johnny Dodds in a couple of numbers. Though they amply expose their individual talent, the interplay in this trio and quartet format is also a joy to listen to.

It was at a party where Goodman’s orchestra was present at Mildred Bailey’s home in New York that it happened first. Teddy Wilson was invited and sat down at the piano, and there you have a man that catches your ear! He was soon joined by Benny’s clarinet and a drummer. I can imagine the roar and the happy faces of the party guests. A recording session with the newly born trio, now including Gene Krupa on drums, followed, and at the time when China Boy was made, they also made an appearance on stage on Easter Sunday, 1936.

This recording session happened some weeks later, on April 24.