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1936-1937 (The Alternative Takes in Chronological Order)

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Album Review

Benny Carter went to London, then to Holland. Everywhere he visited, musicians gathered round and helped him to make jazz records, first for English Vocalion and then for Dutch Decca. Although both takes of "Swingin' at Maida Vale" are bracing examples of precise, hot, mid- '30s British big band swing, with the exception of this title and "Gin and Jive," much of the material on the first half of this disc is slow and ruminative. The real treat is "Nightfall," a gentle study featuring Benny Carter on tenor saxophone. Already notable as a multi-instrumentalist who juggled trumpet, alto sax, clarinet, and piano, Carter rarely recorded with the tenor sax during this part of his career. The smaller ensembles are even tastier; guitarist Bernard Addison is heard in a quartet backing Carter on "Waltzing the Blues." Two sides are more or less saddled with vocals by the tremulous Elisabeth Welch. Carter made three more hot sides with an English big band before venturing into deepest darkest Holland for a "Ramblers" session analogous to what Coleman Hawkins had accomplished there in 1935, and was to achieve again about a month later, with an almost identical band. Indeed, Hawkins shows up in Carter's orchestra on the very last track, recorded in the Hague in August of 1937. By this time, American jazz musicians were received as cultural heroes in most of Europe, while at the same time being demonized by the ethno-phobic government in Nazi Germany. These initially rejected takes of solid, subversively inter-racial, inter-national jazz records from the mid-'30s come across today as precious and fulfilling, well-worth visiting and revisiting.


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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