Benny Carter


Benny Carter And The Jazz Giants

  • Release Date: 07 Oct 1998
  • FCD-60-029

Dan Morgenstern once put it about as well as it could be done: "When Bennett Lester Carter first took up an instrument, Louis Armstrong had yet to make his first records with King Oliver, young Duke Ellington had yet to come to New York to seek his fortune, and Fletcher Henderson had yet to form his first big band." If Carter wasn't present at the creation, he was there by the time the kid had learned to walk.
--from the liner notes by Joe Goldberg, 1998



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Benny Carter


Saxophonist/composer Benny Carter was born in New York City on August 8, 1907. The first and probably the most all encompassing of the multi-instrumentalists of jazz, he has been recognized as a competent pianist and guitarist, an able trombonist, an excellent trumpeter, a clarinet virtuoso, and on saxophone one of the most influential formulators of style in jazz history. If we add to these accomplishments his hundreds of original compositions, plus the fact that he was one of the pioneers who helped establish the canons of orchestrating for a big band, it becomes clear why he is one of the elder statesmen of the music, one of its most erudite theorists as well as one of its most thoroughly experienced players.

But it is primarily as a saxophonist that Carter has staked his claim, and students of the music of the 1930s will know that his recorded alto solos throughout the decade are miracles of poise and suave urbanity, that he evolved an intensely personal method of swooping in a thrilling legato style across the entire range of the instrument, and that the result was elegance without even a suspicion of effeteness. Like his partner on so many occasions, Coleman Hawkins, with whom he worked in the Fletcher Henderson band of the 1920s, he spent much time in Europe up to 1939, and more recently worked with many lions of the modern movement. Carter was one of the first men to master the art of scoring for a saxophone section (witness his legendary transcription for four saxophones of “All of Me”); his jazz has always been learned without being bookish, his technique classically complete, his originality unchallenged by anyone with the slightest pretensions to knowledge of the jazz life.

Benny Carter died July 12, 2003.