KING OF SWING Benny Goodman has been sadly silent for the last decade, at least as far as recording jazz is concerned, so his new album, "Let's Dance," is likely to receive a lot of attention. And one suspects most of it will be favorable, for this live recording features Goodman's still remarkably fluid clarinet and an impressive big band assembled for a recent PBS fundraiser.
Like a lot of PBS fare designed to generate viewer support, "Let's Dance" is big on nostalgia, packed with such swing era classics as "King Porter Stomp," "Don't Be That Way" and "Stealin' Apples." While there are no surprises, there's still no denying Goodman's mastery of dance music or the lasting charm of Fletcher Henderson's arrangements.
At 76, Goodman still boasts the luscious tone and canny phrasing that won him legions of fans a half century ago, and while the session packs little of the unbridled swing that made his Carnegie Hall recordings in the late '30s so enjoyable, there are more than a few compensations, not the least of them being the polished reed ensembles, Louie Bellson's propulsive drumming and Dick Hyman's idiomatic piano.
The album's major drawbacks are its brevity -- the running length is just over half an hour -- and the unexplained absence of performances by two of Goodman's special guests for the broadcast: swing era giants Teddy Wilson and Red Norvo. -- Mike Joyce. BENNY GOODMAN & HIS ORCHESTRA -- "Let's Dance" (MusicMasters 20112Z); appearing Saturday night at Wolf Trap.