Clarinet player brings Goodman's music back to life

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 March, 2009, 12:00am

It's a kind of music that propels you back to the nostalgia of the big band era of the 1930s and 1940s, when if you couldn't get nylon stockings, you drew a line with black eyeliner up the back of your leg to give the impression you were wearing them. And that was just the men.

During his heyday between 1934 and 1942, big band leader and musician Benny Goodman was more popular than Elvis, and his music lives on through British clarinet player Kenny Martyn, who stopped off in Hong Kong between cruise ships to take in a gig at the city's oldest jazz pub, Ned Kelly's Last Stand. Martyn runs a Benny Goodman tribute band in Britain.

'Mozart was a pop musician, so was Benny Goodman. They were both working musicians,' said Martyn, whose soaring tones encompass the technically complicated riffs that Goodman perfected. 'His music is having a resurgence. It was used in The Aviator, Cinderella Man and other films. Incidentally, the king of Thailand is also a Goodman fan and played with the King of Swing in the 1950s.'

Martyn has also developed a fan base from a surprising quarter. A recent gig with his band had quite a few young women in the audience. 'There were a number of younger couples aged 19 to 24, dressed as if they were heading to the disco. We were at the end of the evening with a 17-piece band. There was hysteria. It's the only time in my life I've had ladies screaming at my feet. But Goodman music was designed as dance music.'

Martyn brought a bit of Benny Goodman to Ned Kelly's Last Stand in Tsim Sha Tsui, where he did a set late on Friday with trombonist Colin Aitchison and the China Coast Jazzmen.

And when Martyn (pictured with Aitchison) is not playing, he helps his wife run a hotel dating from 1804 in southern France. Last year, an ordinary little American family came to stay from Little Rock in Arkansas - the Clintons.