“It is not as easy to assess the place of Benny Goodman in the history of jazz as it is with some, like Armstrong and Charlie Parker, who were such overpowering improvisers that they drew everyone in behind them and changed the course of music. As a jazz musician Goodman ranks a step behind the tiny group of musicians at the apex, a group which includes Armstrong, Parker, Ellington and perhaps Beiderbecke, Lester Young and John Coltrane. He belongs, rather, to a not much larger group, which in my judgement would include Teagarden, Miles Davis, Coleman Hawkins, Bill Evans, Billie Holiday, and perhaps a dozen others – every jazz fan will have his own list. Many will disagree, but I think the case can be made. For one thing, Goodman was probably the single most influential clarinetist in the history of jazz…
“…Swing music was not, I submit as great a musical form as…let us say, the European symphony of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. But it was sophisticated and skillfully played music which at moments reached the highest levels. Benny Goodman was the man who found the way to do it, and opened the door for the bands which rushed through the gap – among them Basie, Herman, Barnet, Lunceford, Berigan, Crosby, Webb, Shaw and eventually Kenton, Raeburn and the modernists. How things would have turned out without Goodman is hard to say. But they would have been different.”
-James Lincoln Collier, ‘Benny Goodman and the Swing Era’, Oxford 1989.
Here’s Goodman and his band in 1937, including Gene Krupa (drums), Harry James (trumpet), Vido Musso (tenor sax) and Lionel Hampton (vibes):