5 Things You Should Know About Benny Goodman’s Historic 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert

Victor Goines

News | Jan, 5th 2018

Benny Goodman made history in 1938 when he took the stage for his Carnegie Hall debut. It was not only the first time jazz was performed in the hallowed hall but also an unprecedentedly publicized presentation of Goodman’s groundbreaking, racially integrated ensemble.

On January 11-13, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis will take a step back in time—80 years, to be exact—to Benny Goodman’s legendary Carnegie Hall concert on January 16, 1938. We spoke with JLCO tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Victor Goines, who will music-direct Benny Goodman: King of Swing, to find out five things you should know about this historic performance.

1. This performance was the first time that jazz—hard-swinging, uncompromising jazz—took the stage in a concert hall, helping to further legitimize the genre as an art form.

2. Benny Goodman was worried the show wouldn’t sell because attendees would have to sit instead of dancing, as they were accustomed to doing at his shows. Ultimately, he was proved wrong when the concert sold out weeks in advance!

3. The performance featured differently sized ensembles including big band and a Dixieland quartet.

4. In addition to Goodman’s own big band, the evening featured members of the Count Basie and Duke Ellington orchestras. The members were featured during a jam session on “Honeysuckle Rose.”

5. Benny Goodman didn’t know the concert was recorded. After the performance, Goodman was given one of two copies of the recording, which he put away in his apartment and forgot about. Years later, the recordings were rediscovered, at which point Goodman had them released as The Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert. It went on to become one of the best-selling live jazz albums of all time.


Be sure to join us in the House of Swing (or watch our live webcast) to experience Victor’s take on this historic concert in Benny Goodman: King of Swing, January 11-13, featuring the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis; clarinetists Anat Cohen, Janelle Reichman, and Ken Peplowski; vibraphonist Joseph Doubleday; and vocalist Veronica Swift.


Photo credits: Victor Goines by Frank Stewart; Benny Goodman photo by William P. Gottlieb, courtesy of the William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.

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