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September 01, 1993

ADD THIS to your lore of Baltimore trivia: The parents of Benny Goodman, the King of Swing himself, met and were married in Baltimore in 1894, soon after both had immigrated to America.

David Goodman was from Warsaw, Dora Rezinsky from Kovno (Kaunas) in Lithuania. Desperately poor, they moved to the Maxwell Street slums in Chicago where on May 30, 1909, the ninth of their 12 children was born. His name was Benjamin David Goodman and, as they say, the rest is history -- a history compellingly laid out in a new Goodman biography, "Swing, Swing, Swing" by Ross Firestone.

Over the decades when he was such a lyrical force in American music, Benny Goodman came often to the city where his parents found one another. But he was ever loath to speak about his hard early years, and Baltimore Sun files reveal no reminiscences. Old photos and clips reveal Benny bringing his small combos, his big bands and just himself as aspiring classicist to the Lyric, the City Fair, the Hippodrome, the Coliseum and many a college auditorium or gym.

On Nov. 7, 1962, the late Elliott W. Galkin, music educator at Goucher and Peabody and a critic for The Sun, reviewed a concert at the Lyric in which he said the sound from the famous Goodman clarinet was "in the German tradition, full-bodied and heavy rather than floating and ethereal."

Complaining that the performance was "tame and reserved," Mr. Galkin wrote: "Strangely enough, in the concert hall Mr. Goodman didn't seem to swing."

Strangely enough, this is a conclusion expounded at length in the Firestone book. Various reviewers found his classical work lacking the freedom and spontaneity that made him an epochal figure in the jazz world. Benny agreed. "The thing that appeals to an audience when you play clarinet with a swing band is the ease with which you do it," he once said. "That's the difficulty for me. The relaxation I know in jazz comes harder in serious music."

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