One of the most exciting clarinettists to have emerged in decades on the international jazz scene, Oran Etkin takes a big leap in terms of ambition with his “reimagining” of Benny Goodman here. More on the project in the video, above.
Surrounding himself with a band that is however somehow a little overshadowed by the bravura clarinet frontman role, such is the nature of the dazzling virtuosity of Goodman as channelled by Etkin, the rich and welcoming vocals of Charenée Wade as sparkling as Sullivan Fortner’s prowess as a stride practitioner, vibist Steve Nelson adding plenty of meaty harmonic texture while Matt Wilson drives hard – and necessarily so given the swing imperative – on drums.
Etkin takes inspiration from Goodman’s Palomar Ballroom concert in 1935 that gave birth to the swing era during a year that also saw Goodman form his racially integrated trio with Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa. And this societal coming together is a theme of Etkin’s as he skilfully weaves the influences of black America, Goodman’s cultural Jewishness and the blues into the sound via his dazzling use of not just clarinet but guttural bass clarinet and squawky tenor sax.
There is plenty here to appeal to vintage jazz fans from ‘Dinah’ and ‘Why Don’t You Do Right’ to ‘What’s New?’ and a raucous take on Jelly Roll Morton’s ‘King Porter Stomp’, Etkin using the motif of the main theme of ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’ to thread the album together. Somehow his ‘reimagining’ however hardly amounts to a postmodern reinvention but above all this is a well played respectful homage that should drive Etkin’s reputation as a star soloist even higher.
Released on 30 October
Etkin is over in London to play club dates at the Pizza Express Jazz Club on 30 November and 1 December