Sing, Sing, Sing
Excerpt from the WICN.org “Song of the Week” profile*:
Louis Prima wrote the song and Goodman’s arranger, Jimmy Mundy, created the chart for the band. Mundy referred to “Sing, Sing, Sing” as a “killer-diller”, his term for songs that were high-energy, fast tempo instrumentals whose purpose was to create audience excitement and stir dancers into a frenzy. Killer-dillers played by big bands like Benny Goodman’s ushered in the Swing Era, and “Sing, Sing, Sing” probably is the most famous killer-diller associated with Goodman, if not the entire Swing Era. Goodman said, “Sing, Sing, Sing” (which we started doing back at the Palomar on our second trip there in 1936) was a big thing, and no one-nighter was complete without it…” The Goodman band usually closed every show with that climatic song.
The Goodman band personnel had the muscle and bravado to deliver killer-dillers. In the 1930s trumpets still ruled in jazz bands – the era of saxophone dominance was yet to come – and Goodman’s trumpet section of Harry James, Ziggy Elman, and Chris Griffin was the most celebrated. Termed “The Biting Brass” by the music press, they widely were considered to be the best. Duke Ellington referred to them as “the greatest trumpet section that ever was,” and Glenn Miller called them “the marvel of the age.”
Goodman was asked by Harry Glantz, first trumpet player with the New York Philharmonic, “What the hell to you feed those trumpet players? Raw meat?” David French, at www.AllAboutJazz.com describes the auditory and visual excitement generated by Goodman’s trumpet section:
“All three members could solo and play lead. They memorized their parts, played matching Selmer trumpets, and tuned slightly sharp for a more brilliant sound. Nearly seventy years later it is still thrilling to hear their roar on classic recordings like “Roll ‘Em,” “Life Goes to a Party,” and the Stravinsky-inspired frenzy, “Sing, Sing, Sing.” In vintage footage they toss out their valve hands with a flourish, point their bells high and rip through their parts with the proud nonchalance of young men who know they are the best at what they do.”
In addition to the trumpet section, drummer Gene Krupa was another high-octane band member. He powered the bombastic “Sing, Sing, Sing” with his relentless tom-tom drumming and drum soloing. To quote David Rickert at www.AllAboutJazz.com:
“Sing, Sing, Sing” made good use of the ferocious energy of Krupa, who was the showman of the band. A whirl of arms, hair, and chewing gum, Krupa knew how to work a crowd and cater to the audience. As pianist Jess Stacy related to Whitney Balliett, “Gene was our salesman, our showman, and he worked hard. You could wring water out of his sleeves when he finished a set.” Quite naturally, then, “Sing, Sing, Sing” became a showcase for the drummer.”
Oh, the horrors!
Gunther Schuller criticized Gene Krupa for his countless examples of “rigidly relentless pounding,” and specifically for “the horrors of Sing, Sing, Sing,” on pages 28-30 of his book The Swing Era: the Development of Jazz, 1930-1945 (1991). — Google eBook preview
From Wikipedia, adapted
“Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing)” is a 1936 song, written by Louis Prima and first recorded by him with the New Orleans Gang and released in March 1936 as a 78 as Brunswick 7628 (with “It’s Been So Long” as the B side). It is strongly identified with the big band and swing eras. It was covered by Fletcher Henderson and most famously Benny Goodman. Originally entitled “Sing Bing Sing”, in reference to Bing Crosby, it was soon retitled for use in wider contexts. The song has since been covered by numerous artists. The original version of the song by Louis Prima includes lyrics, but, due to the better-known Benny Goodman version being instrumental (and including many musical flourishes in its arrangement), many assume the song was written as such.
On July 6, 1937, “Sing, Sing, Sing” was recorded in Hollywood with Benny Goodman on clarinet; Harry James, Ziggy Elman, and Chris Griffin on trumpets; Red Ballard and Murray McEachern on trombones; Hymie Schertzer and George Koenig on alto saxophones; Art Rollini and Vido Musso on tenor saxophone; Jess Stacy on piano; Allan Reuss on guitar; Harry Goodman on bass; and Gene Krupa on drums. The song was arranged by Jimmy Mundy. Unlike most big band arrangements of that era, limited in length to three minutes so that they could be recorded on one side of a standard 10-inch 78-rpm record, Goodman band version was an extended work. The 1937 recording lasted 8 min 43 seconds, and took both sides of a 12-inch 78. At its longest, a live recording (with impromptu solos) was recorded and took 12 min 30 sec. Mundy’s arrangement incorporated “Christopher Columbus”, a piece written by Chu Berry for the Fletcher Henderson band, as well as Prima’s work.
Benny Goodman and his Orchestra – the original long version of 1936
The next video contains, according to the provider, a digitally remastered portion of the famous Carnegie Hall performance of Benny Goodman and his Orchestra on 16 January 1938. The provider says that the last two minutes had to be chopped off due to Youtube restrictions.
Regarding the Carnegie Hall performance of the song, Wikipedia says:
[Sing, Sing, Sing as performed in] Goodman’s 1938 Carnegie Hall jazz concert was different from the commercial release and from subsequent performances with the Goodman band. The personnel of the Goodman band for the Carnegie Hall concert were the same as in the 1937 recording session, except Vernon Brown replaced Murray McEachern on trombone, and Babe Russin replaced Vido Musso on tenor sax. Goodman’s solo is more introspective in the Carnegie performance,with a wider range of dynamics and colors, with Krupa playing a pulsating tom-tom accompaniment accented on the third beat of the measure behind BG for the first half of the solo, while Jess Stacy inserts minor-chord punctuations. Goodman’s solo evolves to a driving ‘four’ feel before quietly transitioning into Stacy’s famous solo. Stacy’s solo is exceptional, a four-chorus, chromatic impressionistic masterpiece distinct from everything that preceded it. That solo has been widely analyzed by pianists both jazz and classical. Stacy was quoted as saying he was glad he did not know Goodman was going to let him solo, because then he would have gotten nervous and “screwed it up.”
Benny Goodman and his Orchestra — from the film Hollywood Hotel (1937), featuring solos by Gene Krupa, Harry James, and Goodman — — The video also includes a clip of “I’ve Got a Heartful of Music,” performed by the Benny Goodman Quartet: Benny Goodman (cl), Teddy Wilson (p), Lionel Hampton (vib), and Gene Krupa (d).
As of early 2017, YouTube presently contains dozens of different remixes of Benny Goodman recordings of the song, and most of them seem to use the unidentified recording featured in each of the following two videos.
Fletcher Henderson – the date given by the provider, 1927, is probably some ten years short of the mark
Louis Prima – 1958
* Note, 27 January 2013: This article and all WICN.org Song of the Week articles are no longer available online.