The Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert

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Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert
Goodman carnegie f2.jpg
Live album by Benny Goodman
Released 1950
November 2, 1999 (Reissue)
Recorded January 16, 1938
Genre Jazz
Length Disc One 48:59
Disc Two 53:05
(Original release)
Label Columbia
Legacy Recordings
Producer George Avakian (1950)[a][1][b][2]
Phil Schaap (reissue)[3]
Benny Goodman chronology
Benny Goodman Sextet
(1950)Benny Goodman Sextet1950
Carnegie Hall Concert
BG in Hi-Fi
(1954)BG in Hi-Fi1954

The Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert by Benny Goodman, Columbia Records catalogue item SL-160, is a two-disc LP of swing and jazz music recorded at Carnegie Hall in New York City on January 16, 1938. First issued in 1950, the landmark recording captured the premiere performance given by a big band in the famed concert venue. The event has been described as "the single most important jazz or popular music concert in history: jazz's "coming out" party to the world of "respectable" music."[4] Both critical and public reception to the performances were outstanding.

The title, mastered from preserved acetates,[c] was among jazz's first double albums,[2] first live recordings,[2] and first to sell over a million copies.[2] One of the earliest records of Benny Goodman music issued on the new long-playing format, the concert recording was also sold in a set of nine 45 rpm records in 1950 by Columbia. The subsequent discovery of the aluminum studio masters made from the original recording resulted in several high-quality CD reissues beginning in 1998.[d]

The original recording(s)[edit]

There is much confusion, understandably, about how the live concert was recorded for posterity. At least three studios were involved in making a synchronized pair of acetates (at two, working together) and a set of aluminum masters (at the third). The acetates became the basis for the seminal 1950 double album release. The higher quality metal masters were used for subsequent CD remasters.

According to Benny Goodman's 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert at

"There never would have been a recording of the concert if Albert Marx had not taken the initiative. Marx was married to Helen Ward, who was Benny's vocalist from 1934-1937. He decided to record the concert as an anniversary present for Helen. Two copies were ordered, one for Helen and one for Benny.

At the time, recording technology was still in a fairly primitive state. Only three RCA 44BX microphones were used, one above the conductor's podium and two others at ends of the band. (Other reports claim that a single RCA 44BX mic positioned above the podium was used.)

The feed went offstage to a mixer and then to a CBS truck in the alley. The engineers on site did not control the mix and thus the settings were the same for each song. There was no attempt to bring out individual soloists or to make adjustments appropriate to the unique nature of each song. From the truck, the feed was then sent by broadcast-quality telephone line to the CBS master control room downtown who then patched it on to Harry Smith's Artist's Recording Studio. There, acetate records were cut but each was limited to 8 minutes 45 seconds. (Some reports claim that a wire recorder was used to record the concert. This is false.)

In order to capture the entire live concert, two record cutting turntables had to be used in relay. Smith only had two turntables, so he "subcontracted" the job to Raymond Scott's Universal Recording Studio. Scott received the same feed from CBS master control as did Smith. Thus, the concert was recorded on four different cutting machines --- alas, synchronization had not been invented and half the recordings are at a slightly different speed than the others and it was virtually impossible to attain continuity by "splicing" the records together using analogue methods.

Meanwhile, in the CBS studio, a master was cut on aluminum studio transcription discs. The discs had much higher quality but were useless for commercial use because Goodman had used a number of people from other bands and it proved almost impossible to resolve the contractual issues. Also, the American Federation of Musicians demanded prohibitively high royalties for playing transcribed (recorded) music on the radio. The purpose of this was to provide employment for large numbers of musicians since all performances were "live". It was not until 1947 that the Supreme Court invalidated prohibitions on broadcasting recorded material.

Benny shelved the idea of issuing a recording from his acetates due to the same contract issues that stymied CBS. Since Benny was busy with lots of other projects, his set of acetates also drifted into obscurity. In 1950, the acetates were discovered by Rachel Speiden (Benny's sister-in-law) when she took over Benny's New York apartment and cleaned out the closets. Needless to say, the quality had degraded even further.

With heroic engineering by Harvard physicist/CBS engineer Bill Savory, it was possible to restore about 75% of the concert. Benny's acetates were transferred to tape and then worked on from there.

In early January of 1998, it was announced that the aluminum studio masters had been rediscovered, allowing the entire concert to be reproduced with much better fidelity. Producer Phil Schapp oversaw the new remastering."[1])

CD reissues based on the metal masters were released in 1998, 2002 and 2006. [5]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic5/5 stars[4]
Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings4/4 stars[3]
The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide5/5 stars[6]

The reception to the original 1950 long-playing double-album was exceptional. As technology improved the material was re-released in digital format, with new versions produced both in the 1980s and 1990s.

Bruce Eder, writing for AllMusic, generally praises the 1999 double-CD release, noting the compromise between clear reproduction of sonic detail and retaining surface noise from the source material.[4]

The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings includes the 1999 release in its "Core Collection," in addition to giving it a four-star rating (of a possible four).[3] Penguin authors Richard Cook and Brian Morton describe the release as "a model effort, masterminded by Phil Schaap, whose indomitable detective work finally tracked down the original acetates and gave us the music in the best sound we'll ever get; with powerful, even thrilling, ambience."[3]

1950 Track listing[edit]

Side one
1."Don't Be That Way"Edgar Sampson, Benny Goodman, Mitchell Parish4:23
2."One O'Clock Jump"Count Basie6:38
3."Sensation Rag"Edwin "Eddie" Edwards1:19
4."I'm Coming Virginia"Will Marion Cook, Donald Heywood2:07
5."When My Baby Smiles at Me"Bill Munro, Andrew Sterling, Ted Lewis, Harry Von Tilzer0:50
6."Shine"Cecil Mack, Ford Dabney, Lew Brown1:03
7."Blue Reverie"Duke Ellington, Harry Carney3:18
8."Life Goes to a Party"Harry James, Benny Goodman4:15
Side two
1."Honeysuckle Rose"Thomas "Fats" Waller, Andy Razaf13:55
2."Body and Soul"Johnny Green, Edward Heyman, Robert Sour, Frank Eyton3:23
3."Avalon"Vincent Rose, B.G. DeSylva, Al Jolson4:16
4."The Man I Love"George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin3:26
Total length:48:59
Side three
1."I Got Rhythm"George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin5:09
2."Blue Skies"Irving Berlin3:18
3."Loch Lomond"Traditional2:58
4."Blue Room"Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart2:42
5."Swingtime in the Rockies"Jimmy Mundy, Benny Goodman2:30
6."Bei Mir Bist du Schoen"Scholom Secunda (music), Jacob Jacobs (lyrics)
adapted by Sammy Cahn, Saul Chaplin
7."China Boy"Dick Winfree, Phil Boutelje4:53
Side four
1."Stompin' at the Savoy"Edgar Sampson, Benny Goodman, Chick Webb5:51
2."Dizzy Spells"Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson5:44
3."Sing Sing Sing (with a Swing)"Louis Prima12:08
4."Big John's Special"Horace Henderson3:48
Total length:53:05

1999 Compact disc reissue track listing[edit]

Disc one[edit]

1."Benny Goodman 1950 Introduction" (recorded 1950) 0:22
2."Don't Be That Way"Edgar Sampson, Benny Goodman, Mitchell Parish4:12
3."Sometimes I'm Happy"Vincent Youmans, Irving Caesar, Clifford Grey4:13
4."One O'Clock Jump"Eddie Durham, Buster Smith6:47
5."Applause; transition to Twenty Years of Jazz" 0:41
6."Sensation Rag"Edwin "Eddie" Edwards1:12
7."I'm Coming Virginia"Will Marion Cook, Donald Heywood2:15
8."When My Baby Smiles at Me"Bill Munro, Andres Sterling, Ted Lewis, Harry Von Tilzer0:52
9."Shine"Cecil Mack, Ford Dabney, Lew Brown0:55
10."Blue Reverie"Duke Ellington, Harry Carney3:32
11."Applause; transition back to Goodman Orchestra" 0:22
12."Life Goes to a Party"Harry James, Benny Goodman4:05
13."Setting up for Jam Session" 0:40
14."Honeysuckle Rose" (solos: Lester Young, Count Basie, Buck Clayton, Johnny Hodges, rhythm section (Basie, Freddie Green, Walter Page, Gene Krupa), Carney, Goodman, Green, James, Young, Clayton)Thomas "Fats" Waller, Andy Razaf16:42
15."Applause; setting-up & tuning-up for BG Small Groups" 1:00
16."Body and Soul"Johnny Green, Edward Heyman, Robert Sour, Frank Eyton3:10
17."Applause as Lionel Hampton enters" 0:27
18."Avalon"Vincent Rose, B.G. DeSylva, Al Jolson4:04
19."The Man I Love"George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin3:35
20."I Got Rhythm"George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin4:51
21."pause track" 0:06

Disc two[edit]

Tracks 20-28 are edited tracks from the 1938 concerts, pressed onto a 12" 78 rpm record in 1950 and sent to radio stations to help promote the original double-album release.[7]

1."Blue Skies"Irving Berlin3:14
2."Loch Lomond"Traditional3:04
3."Applause; Benny Goodman's 'No Encore' announcement" 1:14
4."Blue Room"Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart2:36
5."Swingtime in the Rockies"Jimmy Mundy, Benny Goodman2:38
6."Applause; Martha Tilton returns to stage" 0:21
7."Bei Mir Bist du Schoen"Scholom Secunda (music), Jacob Jacobs (lyrics)
adapted by Sammy Cahn, Saul Chaplin
8."Applause; setting-up for BG small groups" 0:32
9."China Boy"Dick Winfree, Phil Boutelje4:45
10."Stompin' at the Savoy"Edgar Sampson, Benny Goodman, Chick Webb5:55
11."Applause; BG Quartet continues but changes program" 0:24
12."Dizzy Spells"Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson5:37
13."Applause; transition back to Goodman orchestra for finale" 0:41
14."Sing Sing Sing (with a Swing)"Louis Prima12:02
15."Applause until encores" 1:03
16."If Dreams Come True"Edgar Sampson, Benny Goodman, Irving Mills2:34
17."Applause for second encore" 0:21
18."Big John's Special"Horace Henderson3:41
19."pause track" 0:06
Benny Goodman 1950 Tune-By-Tune Introductions
21."Don't Be That Way"0:18
22."Twenty Years of Jazz"0:15
23."Blue Reverie"0:24
24."Life Goes to a Party"0:27
25."Body and Soul"0:45
27."Swingtime in the Rockies"0:17


The Benny Goodman Orchestra[edit]

Additional performers[edit]


  • James Lincoln Collier: Benny Goodman and the Swing Area. ISBN 0-19-505278-1
  • Jon Hancock: " Benny Goodman - 'The Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert' ". ISBN 0-95-624040-2, Prancing Fish Publishing (May 2009)
  • Irving Kolodin: Liner Notes (Benny Goodman – Carnegie Hall Concert)
  • Richard Morton & Brian Cook: The Penguin Guide To Jazz On CD, Sixth Edition, London, Penguin, 2002
  • Catherine Tackley: 'Benny Goodman's Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert', Oxford: Oxford University Press 2013 ISBN 978-0-19-539831-1


  1. ^ "Following military service during World War II, Avakian became the head of Columbia’s Popular Music division, which at the time included jazz. When the long-playing record format was introduced in 1948 Avakian seized the initiative, creating a reissue series that put the first 100 pop recordings onto a series of the new 12-inch, 33 1/3-rpm discs. In 1950, Avakian produced a record of Benny Goodman’s 1938 Carnegie Hall concert—the first time a jazz orchestra played the hallowed venue—beginning a new trend of recorded live performances on which Columbia led the industry."[1]
  2. ^ "In the 1950s, Avakian supervised two historic live recordings: Benny Goodman Live at Carnegie Hall 1938 and Ellington at Newport. The Goodman concert, released in 1950, was among jazz’s first double albums, first live albums and first to sell a million copies."[2]
  3. ^ "The album made from the recovered acetates became one of the first 33 1/3 LPs to sell over a million copies."[5]
  4. ^ "The eventual discovery of the aluminum studio master recordings led to high-quality CD reissues in 1998, 2002 and 2006 of the legendary Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert." [5]


  1. ^ a b George Avakian Dies at 98, Jazz Times
  2. ^ a b c d e George Avakian, jazz producer of Miles Davis and more, dies at 98, The Guardian
  3. ^ a b c d Cook, Richard; Brian Morton (2008) [1992]. The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings. The Penguin Guide to Jazz (9th ed.). New York: Penguin. pp. 574–575. ISBN 978-0-14-103401-0. 
  4. ^ a b c Eder, Bruce. The Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert at AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-06-15.
  5. ^ a b c "Benny Goodman brings jazz to Carnegie Hall",
  6. ^ Swenson, J., ed. (1985). The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide. USA: Random House/Rolling Stone. p. 86. ISBN 0-394-72643-X. 
  7. ^ Liner notes from 1999 reissue.
  8. ^ Sohmer, Jack (1938-01-16). "Jazz Reviews: Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall-1938: CompleteBenny Goodman — By Jack Sohmer — Jazz Articles". Retrieved 2012-01-06.