By many accounts, the swing era kicked off on August 21, 1935, when Benny Goodman’s band played the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles, California. They say that Goodman’s boys were playing it on the sweet side, with stock arrangements and little swing, and the crowds weren’t much having it. Amongst the yawns, Gene Krupa suggested, “If we’re gonna die, Benny, let’s die playing our own thing,” and so the band got out their hot Fletcher Henderson arrangements and hepped the cats to kingdom come. Thus, the swing era was born.
Swing as a genre had emerged earlier in the decade, as the largely distinct styles of hot jazz and orchestrated dance music of the 1920s began to converge as one: jazz made for dancing. Early exponents of the style included the orchestras of Fletcher Henderson, Don Redman, Cab Calloway, the Casa Loma Orchestra, and others. Of course, there’s more to it than that, but you’ll have to ask a musician about it, ’cause I couldn’t tell you.
In a session supervised by Ed Kirkeby, Victor 25090 was recorded on July 1, 1935 at RCA Victor’s Studio 2 in New York City. It was released on July 31, exactly four weeks prior to his date at the Palomar. In the band are Bunny Berigan, Ralph Muzillo, and Nate Kazebier on trumpets, Sterling Ballard and Jack Lacy on trombones, Benny Goodman on clarinet, Toots Mondello and Hymie Schertzer on alto saxophones, Arthur Rollini and Dick Clark on tenor saxes, Frank Froeba on piano Allan Ruess on guitar, Harry Goodman on string bass, Gene Krupa on drums
Benny Goodman’s famous recording of Fletcher Henderson’s arrangement of Jelly Roll Morton’s “King Porter” (Stomp) received high marks from the music publications of the day, and rightly so, it’s a masterwork. Henderson’s own band recorded variations of the arrangement at least thrice, first in 1928 for Columbia, then for Okeh in 1932 as “New King Porter Stomp”, and finally for Vocalion in 1933. Whether or not Benny’s band played this one at the Palomar Ballroom, I really don’t know, but it seems likely.
On the reverse, they play a little less hot, but nonetheless excellent on “Sometimes I’m Happy”, from Hit the Deck—another Henderson arrangement.