The Anderson Twins: Benny Meets Artie

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The Anderson Twins

Benny Meets Artie
Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, February 5, 2020

Peter & Will Anderson
Photo: Lynn Redmile

From the late 1930s to the early 1940s Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw engaged in a competition to earn the title King of the Clarinet. They had similar backgrounds. Both came from impoverished Jewish immigrant families and both started working as professional musicians in their teens. However, their personalities and life-styles were miles apart. But different as they were, they both were always about the music. The music was what this show was about, and it was a delight to listen to. Peter and Will Anderson are virtuosos on both clarinet and saxophone and were backed by three jazz musicians, Clovis Nicholas (bass), Rossano Sportiello (piano), and Paul Wells (drums) who wonderfully perform the music of the Big Band Era. The vocals were provided by one of today’s best jazz singers, Molly Ryan, whose smile lights up a room and whose unique sound and phrasing are perfect for this era in music history. Will Anderson nicely ties this tribute together with his stories and anecdotes, and his dry sense of humor often produces out-bursts of laughter.

The Andersons took turns playing solos on both clarinet and saxophone for the opening number “Begin the Beguine,” which was followed by “Moonglow,” featuring a solo by Sportiello. Both Goodman and Shaw recorded “Stardust,” and Ryan included the verse in her stylized performance, which included a solo on flute by Will Anderson. He got a big laugh after talking about Shaw’s eight wives, including Lana Turner and Ava Gardner, quoting Shaw, “You have no idea about the women I didn’t marry.” They played the dirge “St. James Infirmary” after Will Anderson told how Shaw stopped playing the clarinet at age 44. Ryan’s facial expression and arm movement were a big part of her dramatic “Body and Soul.” Wells had a dazzling drum solo as part of “Airmail Special,” a song Goodman wrote with Charlie Christian and Jimmy Mundy. Ryan returned for a swinging “After You’ve Gone” followed by a brilliant performance of one of my personal favorite songs, “These Foolish Things.” The closing number reprised the jam session version of “Sing, Sing, Sing,” performed during Goodman’s iconic 1938 Carnegie Hall concert. The brief encore was a few bars of Goodman’s closing theme, Gordon Jenkins’ “Goodbye.”

When Shaw was asked in 2002 what the difference was between him and Goodman, his response was “I’m alive.” Goodman passed away in 1986. If you are a believer in reincarnation, note that the Andersons were born precisely nine months later.

Ron Forman

Ron Forman has been a Mathematics Professor at Kingsborough Community College for 45 years. In that time, he has managed to branch out in many different areas. From 1977 to 1994 he was co-owner of Comics Unlimited, the third largest comic book distribution company in the USA. In 1999,after a lifetime of secretly wanting to do a radio program, he began his weekly Sweet Sounds program on WKRB 90.3 FM, dedicated to keeping the music of the Great American Songbook alive and accessible. This introduced him to the world of cabaret, which led to his position as a reviewer for Cabaret Scenes.