Paul Keller Orchestra

A Tribute to Benny Goodman

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The Paul Keller Orchestra celebrates the music of the King of Swing with their 2005 CD A Tribute To Benny Goodman LIVE at the Firefly Club. Special guest, veteran Detroit clarinetist Jim Wyse plays the role of Benny Goodman with great passion, clarity and respect as bassist Paul Keller leads his expanded 18-piece big band. Together, Jim Wyse and the PKO take a spirited romp through 13 classic big band swing charts and two small group standard songs. Other guests adorning this CD are vibraphonist/vocalist Cary Kocher and rhythm guitarist Rod McDonald. The PKO's wonderful vocalist and Firefly Club owner Susan Chastain makes an appearance on four tracks as well. 

The Paul Keller Orchestra plays every Monday night at their beloved home, the Firefly Club in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A precious jewel of Michigan's music since 1989, the band has played more than 800 Monday nights, creating an Ann Arbor tradition. Come and experience the PKO at the Firefly Club. Check out

This CD was recorded in three LIVE sessions: two at the Firefly Club and one at the Elks Club of Troy, Michigan for a Windsor/Detroit Jazz Club concert. The recording and mixing engineer for this project was the PKO's baritone saxophonist Paul Klinger.


1. Mission To Moscow was composed and arranged by Mel Powell, one of many masterful pianists Goodman hired. The opening trombone fanfare heralds the beginning of this super CD. Check out Cary Kocher whose vibraphone doubles the lead saxophone on the first chorus and the second chorus sax soli. Nice texture. Mission To Moscow cooks! This flag waver sets the tone for an exhilarating program of classic big band jazz.

2. Mary Lou Williams, another great pianist and arranger, composed Camel Hop for Benny's weekly CBS radio program in the late 1930s called The Camel Caravan. Excellent solos are offered up by clarinetist Jim Wyse, pianist Jim Dapogny and bassist Paul Keller.

3. Goodman's star trumpeter Harry James concocted Life Goes To A Party of some riffs Benny had been fooling around with. The title was borrowed from the name of a November 1, 1937 Life magazine featuring Benny's band at the Madhattan Room. This tune features hot solos from Jim Wyse, trombonist Chris Smith, vibraphonist Kocher, trumpeter Paul Finkbeiner and drummer Pete Siers.

4. Originally entitled "Fralich in Swing," And The Angels Sing, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, became a hit tune, for Benny and others. Susan, an important part of every PKO performance sings the tune sweetly. Stepping into the role of the tune's composer and Goodman star trumpeter Ziggy Elman, trumpeter Paul Finkbeiner plays a breathtaking solo which culminates in an emotionally climactic ending.

5. Estrellita is a lovely 1914 Spanish fox trot number. Laid-back and good to dance to.

6. The vaudeville/pop tune Some Of These Days, introduced in 1910 by Sophie Tucker, got classic swing-band treatment in an arrangement by saxophonist/arranger Edgar Sampson, who also wrote the Goodman hit Don't Be That Way.

7. Cary Kocher steps out from behind the vibraphone to sing Lulu's Back In Town. This chart was arranged by Jimmy Mundy, another important contributor to the Goodman sound.

8. King Porter Stomp, "Jelly Roll" Morton's 1906 composition, waited until the 1930's to become a jazz classic. It's heard here in a 1935 arrangement by Fletcher Henderson. One of Goodman's most important collaborators, Henderson was a man who not only helped to create swing style in general, with his own band, but, with the many arrangements he wrote for Goodman, the identity of the Benny's band in particular.

9. Susan Chastain is back on to sing another one. This time she's chosen the Benny Goodman favorite Goody, Goody. Hooray and Hallelujah!

10. Down South Camp Meeting is another gem from the pen of genius Fletcher Henderson. Trumpeter Brandon Cooper and Jim Wyse each blow a chorus before the familiar melody is finally stated halfway through the chart by the saxes and vibes.

11. Moonglow is a tip of the hat to the Goodman small groups. Moonglow features Chastain, Dapogny, Keller, Siers, Kocher, McDonald and Wyse.

12. Big John's Special is an arrangement for Fletcher Henderson's band by his younger brother Horace. This 1934 composition was performed at the famous 1938 Benny Goodman jazz concert at Carnegie Hall.

13. My Honey's Lovin' Arms is a fine example of the way the Goodman band transformed older pop tunes into sensational swing dance extravaganzas. 

14. Susan and the small band return to perform a tune that Goodman had a hit with--with a vocal by Helen Ward--You Turned The Tables On Me.

15. The Atomic Bomb of all swing dance tunes is Sing, Sing, Sing. This is the most famous of all the Goodman hits and was one of the triumphs of the 1938 Carnengie Hall concert. When Louis Prima wrote this novelty ditty in 1936, he probably didn't have any idea that, two years later Benny Goodman would turn it into one of the most popular and iconic pieces of music of the 20th century. Here, the PKO's awesome drummer Pete Siers pays homage to Goodman's incredible drummer Gene Krupa. This nine minute concert version is laden with excitement, chops and delightful surprises. What a fantastic end to an inspired tribute to Benny Goodman from the Paul Keller Orchestra with clarinetist Jim Wyse!