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Benny Carter: The Ultimate Collection

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Album Review

Benny Carter was still going strong at the age of 74 during this 1981 concert at the Smithsonian. Carter's group (with pianist Kenny Barron, bassist George Duvivier, and drummer Ronnie Bedford) is a bit different than on his typical small-group record dates, as violinist Joe Kennedy, Jr. is added as well. This provides a bit of contrast with the leader's elegant, swinging alto sax, as Kennedy often has a bluesy Stuff Smith-like sound. Carter's sound is instantly recognizable in "Honeysuckle Rose," demonstrating why both Charlie Parker and Phil Woods admired him so much (along with a host of other musicians). Kennedy is featured extensively in "Take the 'A' Train," wowing the audience with Carter's encouragement, while the veteran Duvivier slyly works in "Rockin' in Rhythm" into his solo. Kennedy plays both pizzicato and arco in "Cottontail," with Barron cheerfully detouring into "Get Happy" in the midst of his solo. The only miscue of the evening is the odd start to "Autumn Leaves," as there is evidently a misunderstanding between Carter and Barron as to the desired key. Voice of America broadcaster Willis Conover hosts a brief interview with Carter at the midpoint, though the interviewer is never seen on camera. One other oddity is the mention in the jacket notes that "On Green Dolphin Street" is played, though it is not part of the concert. This well-photographed and edited DVD has excellent sound and is a great example of Benny Carter in a concert setting.


Born: 08 August 1907 in New York, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

To say that Benny Carter had a remarkable and productive career would be an extreme understatement. As an altoist, arranger, composer, bandleader, and occasional trumpeter, Carter was at the top of his field since at least 1928, and in the late '90s, Carter was as strong an altoist at the age of 90 as he was in 1936 (when he was merely 28). His gradually evolving style did not change much through the decades, but neither did it become at all stale or predictable except in its excellence. Benny Carter...
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Benny Carter: The Ultimate Collection, Benny Carter
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