WOOSTER, Ohio — A tribute to jazz legend Benny Goodman took place last week in Chicago, and Jeffrey Lindberg, professor of music at The College of Wooster and conductor of the Wooster Symphony Orchestra and The College of Wooster Jazz Ensemble, played a major role in the festivities.
Lindberg, founder and director of the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, and his fellow musicians brought the music of Goodman to life at the celebration, which was held at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park. The concert marked the 75th anniversary of Goodman's first appearance at Ravinia in the summer of 1938, which came just a few months after his historic concert at Carnegie Hall.
Chicago Tribune arts critic Howard Reich described Lindberg’s Chicago Jazz Orchestra as “magisterial,” adding that “its corporate virtuosity radiated from virtually every work, and especially in a too-brief but still explosive version of… ‘Sing, Sing, Sing.’”
The orchestra honored Goodman, a.k.a. “The King of Swing,” with not one, not two, but three clarinetists, which Reich said “captured the joy and verve of this music.” He went on to say that “with Jeff Lindberg leading the muscular Chicago Jazz Orchestra, solo clarinetists Anat Cohen, Eric Schneider, and Larry Combs affirmed that Goodman lives wherever the art of swing still flourishes.”
Reich said that each of the three clarinetists “illuminated a distinct facet of Goodman’s music,” particularly Cohen, who evoked “the sensuousness of Goodman’s sound, the propulsion of his rhythm, and the soaring high spirits of his up-tempo playing.”
Goodman, who hailed from Chicago’s West Side, transformed the music world with the sound of his clarinet, beginning in 1938 with appearances at Carnegie Hall and the Ravinia Festival. He also influenced attitudes toward race when he integrated his band, despite snarling from a deeply divided American public.
“Goodman’s celebration at the Ravinia Festival did much more than mark a moment in time,” wrote Reich. “It acknowledged his still-exalted position in our culture and, of course, his deep roots in the jazz city that launched him: Chicago.”
Lindberg described the opportunity to be involved in the celebration as an honor. “Goodman was one of the all-time greats,” said Lindberg. “He helped to define jazz as we know it today, and made a bold statement his commitment to racial equality and social justice.”
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