This four-CD set is a treasure trove of wartime Benny Goodman activity, containing 68 tracks recorded or released on behalf of the Navy V-Disc program. In addition to the full band, the Benny Goodman Trio (with Teddy Wilson
and Specs Powell
) is represented, along with the "V-Disc Quartette," and the Benny Goodman Quintet. There are no dates included or other information, but the recordings generally span from the second half of 1943 until the middle of 1945. These aren't Goodman's complete V-Disc issues, nor has there apparently been much effort to keep what is here in recording or release order. They have been assembled in a sensible order for listening pleasure, however, and there's a considerable amount of that to be had. Goodman, like most other artists, was sidelined from recording for much of the early '40s by the Musicians Union's recording ban, but he recorded dozens of V-Discs that served to capture his repertory and his band's sound during this era. The Goodman band, in particular, through a combination of serving the public in their work and the growing optimism of the later war years -- and the plentiful work and money -- developed a reputation for reckless abandon in their performances during this period that made them a wonder to hear, stretching out on every solo as though there were no tomorrow. The repertory is, thus, unique, and priceless -- Goodman and his band (and trio and quartet) at the peak of their performance and innovation. The sound is uniformly good throughout this collection, with few exceptions of consequence, and the only flaw is the lack of any detailed notes.