Tag Archives: Harry James

Carnegie Hall and Benny Goodman

I have had a lot of high points in my career but this certainly ranks at the top. Great pianist John Bunch called me one day from the Astor Hotel and said Benny Goodman needs a trumpet player can you come down here right away which i certainly did.  After spending 2 years with Benny Goodman in his sextet being able to sit in Harry James chair at Carnegie Hall playing lead trumpet on the original 1938 charts and solos was the cherry on the cake. Anyone that was at the original 1938 concert was allowed to sit on the stage that night with the band. As i was playing I could see years dropping off the faces as those people who were teenagers “bobbysoxers” at the time reliving that historic night. The music paper was all brown from the Library of Congress and my parts had little handwritten notes on it from Harry James. At the end Benny’s daughter came on stage and gave Benny’s clarinet to Issac Stern for the Carnegie Hall Archives. Kudo’s to Bob Wilber for putting this together at the urging of his brother in law Grady Jensen the former Mayor of Scarsdale where Bob grew up and making it happen along with the Jersey Jazz Society.

I just received a tape from Bob Wilber I didn’t know existed of that night at Carnegie Hall in 1988. Apparently it was sitting in his archives which reminded me of the story Benny’s daughter told that night about finding the acetates of the original 1938 concert years later in the linen closet. Here is a sample of the Harry James piece i did on “Shine” . The story goes that Harry at 21 years old had tremendous admiration as everyone did for Louis Armstrong and wanted to take a try at a short version of “Shine” a famous Louie piece as a tribute. Bob through me the challenge that night and i took it playing my own solo. Glenn


Here is another arrangement written by the great Harry James 21 years old at the time. What a thrill not only playing lead trumpet but the solo !  For all you Jitterbugger’s remember the excitement when this music first hit your ears and feet !!

Life Goes To A Party :

Trumpeter Ziggy Elman did a famous solo on the Jewish classic “Bei Mir Bistu Shein”  .  I am not Jewish for sure but have done enough Jewish weddings where i was able to get the spirit with my own solo !

This is the famous jam session segment of the concert. What an honor to play with all these jazz legends. I take the 2nd trumpet solo after Doc Cheatum.

This is the intermission that night.  It was amazing to find out Issac Stern was a jazz fan and friend of Benny Goodman. He tells a story growing  up and  listening to Benny and coming to NY and hanging out on 52nd street.  Also Benny’s daughter gives an interesting backround on the 1938 recording and gives Benny’s clarinet to Issac Stern for the Carnegie Hall archives.  What a night !

Rhythm and Swinging

“Swinging” is one of the most amazing things in Vintage Jazz and probably the most mysterious and hardest to explain.  Case in point take an arrangement from any great jazz arranger like Quincy Jones and give it to a jazz musician and a classical musician.  When the jazz musician interprets the notes it will swing and when a classical musician interprets the notes except in rare cases, it will not.   Why, as they are the same exact notes on the page ?  Duke Ellington wrote a famous song :  “if it aint got that swing it don’t mean a thing” and I believe he meant it in the truest sense. Through the years I have noticed any great jazz arrangement I have played no matter how good, had little notations made by previous players related to interpretations of the music.  When I did the 50th anniversary at Carnegie Hall of the 1938 historic Benny Goodman Concert for Bob Wilber we had the original music from Library of Congress.  I was playing lead trumpet and there were handwritten notes on the music from Harry James who played lead trumpet in 1938.   So the point I am making is “jazz interpretation” by the player is key to playing any jazz written or otherwise.  All this has a very simple solution in my opinion.  Listen to the “great swingers” in jazz and it will eventually be obvious.  Of course one could explain technically what someone is doing when they swing like my football analogy on the earlier post but I believe a more direct and enjoyable route is just groove on the great swingers of all time and try to emulate that in your own playing.   Also a tip on the subject of “how to listen” in general which I will expand upon in subsequent posts.   When listening you can focus on a specific area, for example you can listen specifically for the “swing” factor in a performance and isolate that.  Let me say one more thing about this and this is in no way to invalidate later art forms which have their own strengths and beauty.  You will not hear the same “swing” in more modern forms of jazz and players that you will with “Vintage Jazz” and players.   Just like you won’t hear the same rhythmic factors (their own kind of swing) in Bach and Mozart that you would hear in Bartok or Stravinsky. That’s the beauty of it great art is an individual thing.