Pete Long and his All-Star Orchestra play Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall – Live Review – Ryedale Festival
By Karl Hornsey, July 2017
The Ryedale Festival continues with one of its hottest attractions, as Pete Long and his All-Star Orchestra recreate the 1938 concert led by Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall.
The concert has been described as the most important in jazz history and the night that jazz moved out of the shadows and into the mainstream,. Its importance nearly 80 years on still cannot be over-estimated. The array of talent on stage that night is truly breathtaking, and the recreation at the Milton Rooms in Malton proves an occasion to be remembered.
Pete Long is well-known in music circles as the director of Ronnie Scott’s Big Band and an experienced musician, writer and bandleader. He has assembled a wonderfully talented orchestra of 16 players to bring Goodman’s concert to life. Long and his orchestra have performed the concert more than 50 times over the last decade or so, and while some of the band members may have changed, that in-depth knowledge of the subject matter is evident from the beginning.
While jazz as a musical genre may not be to everyone’s liking, the sheer talent of each individual member of the orchestra has to be heard live to be appreciated, with all of them given the collective and personal showcase to demonstrate their abilities in the Big Band arena.
Many of the audience at the Milton Rooms will no doubt have been familiar with Goodman’s original concert and many of the songs performed, but Long comes into his own as a Big Band leader and entertainer by introducing each song, explaining its origins and how Goodman came to perform them, so that the amateur enthusiast has an idea of time and place, rather than simply having the music played at them.
Long has the audience in the palm of his hands from the off, combining his phenomenal talent on the clarinet with the wit of a raconteur and a knowledge of all things Goodman that must be second to none.
“Has to be seen to be believed”
While recreating the skills of the likes of Goodman, Count Basie, Harry Carney and Lionel Hampton simply isn’t possible, the talent Long has assembled is truly jaw-dropping, and the frenzied nature of the concert never ceases, including a phenomenal demonstration of the vibraphone which needs to be seen to be believed and which was played to such great effect on this evening.
Tracks include ‘Sometimes I’m Happy’, ‘Honeysuckle Rose’, ‘Loch Lomond’ (featuring acclaimed American vocalist Joan Viskant) and the showstopping ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’, along with the extraordinarily frenetic ‘Dizzy Spells’, the likes of which I have never witnessed before.
I would heartily urge anyone with even the slightest interest in music to check out Long’s itinerary and go along to watch him in action, along with his all-star orchestra, for a night you’ll never forget.