"Whether you've just discovered Benny Goodman recently or been a fan of his as long as you can remember (for me it's about 40 years), this compilation of clips, interviews, stills and performances will be a very intriguing look at the man and his music, why they were inseparable and the influences he had on those who worked with him. There is material to be seen which gives a good insight into various aspects of the B.G. culture, for example: the beginnings of the Swing phenomenon, how Lionel Hampton managed to hit those vibes so rapidly, the quiet way in which Goodman broke down racial barriers, the inevitable clash between Gene Krupa & Goodman, his intolerance for imperfection, the impact of the Carnegie Hall concert and so on. (In one scene, the single overhead microphone used to preserve that historic concert can be seen clearly). Unless you have already read everything about B.G. ever written, seen all the available footage and heard all his recordings, this DVD is highly recommended. The sound and picture probably could not be better. My only criticism, typical for this kind of documentary, is that there aren't enough complete performances but in this case I would say there are enough clips to give a good overall impression of the trio, quartet and orchestra."
Good, straight-forward introduction to Benny's world
John Grabowski | USA | 12/17/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a good, basic intro to the Benny Goodman who was known to millions as "The King of Swing." They could have gone a lot farther with aspects of Benny most people know nothing about--he commissioned and performed great works from Bela Barok, Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein, for example, but that isn't even *mentioned*--but the appeal here is to a mainstream understanding of BG. The documentary footage is fascinating, though we could have stayed longer in Carnegie Hall. They also whitewash Benny's severe personality problems, which only got worse as he aged. His Russian Tour, during which he alienated virutally all his men and may have been acting strangely because of a cocktail of pain-killers and uppers he was taking, isn't even mentioned, nor is the simple significance of the fact that his was the first American cultural institution allowed behind the Iron Curtain. His whole classical career is dealt with in about 30 seconds. There are some interesting details: we learn of his secret affair with and near-marriage to singer Helen Ward. We find out his daughters felt distanced from him because all he could talk about was music. And we see some great Carnegie Hall footage. (Despite the persistent myth, the great big overhanging mike wasn't used to record that concert; three mikes off to the sides of the stage recorded it. The NBC "Diamond" microphone, used to record Toscanini's famous broadcasts, was switched off that night.)Some of the sidemen seem to tell tales that grow longer with every year. (Lionel Hampton says he told someone who asked what jazz is "If you have to ask, don't mess with it." Supposedly Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller, among others, also said the same thing.) And there are a few factual errors: the Let's Dance broadcasts didn't really triumph on the west coast because Goodman's band went last and the west coast audience was the only one still awake when it played; the bands actually rotated through the night, and everyone heard an even dose of all the musics performed; why Benny succeeded so big not on the whole west coast but specifically in LA is something that will never be known. Also the super near the end that identifies Goodmand and Krupa together as from a rehearsal for the Carnegie Hall Anniversary concert is a mistake. It should read "The Timex All-Star Sessions."Aside from these minor blemishes this is a fine documentary, but far from definitive. The best look yet at BG is the Ross Firestone book "Swing Swing Swing." Like most American Masters documentaries, this seems to have been made a bit hastily, and could have had more depth and been less simplistic. But it's good clean fun nonetheless."
Candace Scott | Lake Arrowhead, CA, USA | 03/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you are a fan of Benny Goodman, this is a required purchase. Yes, there are a number of problems and I will briefly mention them up front. Benny as a human being is not the focus here, and this did irritate me. He was amazingly difficult, cheap, severe with his sidemen and almost impossible to get close to. These problems were exacerbated in later years by his use of prescription drugs which made him "moody," to put it mildly. Benny's personality is not examined here and that is a major flaw.In addition, Benny's amazing classical career is glossed over with scarcely a mention. His later years, from 1960 onwards, are also hustled through and I found this disappointing. Some of his European concerts from the 70's really were swingin' affairs, I have the casette tapes to prove it.So why with these myriad problems am I still giving this five stars? Simply because the rest of the documentary is stellar. They focus on Benny's swing years, from 1935-1944, and they show some amazing footage, including color footage of Gene, Ziggy, Harry, Teddy and the rest of the boys. I wish they would have spent more time on the seminal 1938 Carnegie Hall concert, but they do cover this event in some detail. The picture quality is exceptional, though the audio is inconsistent.Still, I give it a high recomendation for all Benny Goodman enthusiasts."
GOODMAN FAN'S SHOULD OWN THIS
CONCERT LOVER | AKRON, OHIO | 07/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I FOUND THIS DVD VERY INTERESTING. YOU'LL BE DISSAPPOINTED IF YOU'RE EXPECTING A CONCERT. ANYWAY THIS DVD COVERS BENNY'S RISE TO THE TOP. INTERVIEWS WITH FORMER BAND MEMBERS AND FAMILY, PLUS BENNY HIMSELF, MAKE THIS GOOD. WHAT A FANTATIC MUSICIAN. HE ALWAYS SURROUNDED HIMSELF WITH A GREAT BAND, SOME OF WHOM BECAME STARS THEMSELVES. THERE ARE LOTS OF EXAMPLES OF BENNY PLAYING IN DIFFERENT SITUATIONS. ONE OF THE BEST IS BENNY PLAYING "AVALON" WITH LIONEL HAMPTON, GENE KRUPA AND TEDDY WILSON. THIS ALONE IS WORTH THE COST."
Kingdom of swing and "The King"
E. Reides | 09/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Benny has only one thing in his mind since the age of nine: "Clarinet". This documentary reveals in an excelent manner in only one hour what minds Clarinet and swing music in the hands and body of this virtuose man called Benny Goodman. You can find a lot of his music and interpretations and take in mind the next two things: if you know Benny you must see the movie; but if you don't know Benny, plese see the documentary and enjoy his magnificient playing from his young years during all his career."