Wednesday, August 15, 2007

everything's great when you're over 98

Marc Myers discusses Benny Carter, who was born 100 years ago this month. Rifftides has more information and recommended recordings. Carter's not someone I know much (I don't even have what seems to be his magnum opus, Further Definitions), so I did a little searching. The oldest footage I could find of him on saxophone is a couple of JATP performances with Coleman Hawkins, from 1967. The tenor saxophonist isn't in the best of shape, but Carter is brilliant and fluid. They were born only three years apart, yet Carter seems far more modern than Hawkins, which perhaps has something to do with his knife-sharp phrasing and tone. I don't know if that's a testament to the pace at which jazz evolved in its early years or to Carter's searching mind. Hawkins is in better form on the second video, a blues, and Carter is equally delightful.

Carter played many instruments, one of which was trumpet. Here, he plays plays back-up in an awesome Fats Waller music video from 1943:

The rhythm section on this 1975 Montreux date is rather heavy-handed, which every soloist (Carter, Clark Terry, Zoot Sims) demonstrates by not being heavy-handed. Doesn't Sims kind of look like Bill Clinton?

Rifftides links to more videos of Benny Carter performances.

From Brett Primack comes a public conversation between Carter and fellow saxophonist Mel Martin. The promo video for a CD of their subsequent performance together shows that Carter retained considerable powers at the age of 87.

In the conversation with Martin, Carter declares Cannonball Adderley to have been his favourite player. I chose the 1963 German TV session below in part because I love the studio's set, but also because in the first of the three songs performed, you can hear some of what the latter inherited from the former (and having Yusef Lateef, Nat Adderley, Jozef Zawinul, Sam Jones and Louis Hayes in the band doesn't hurt either).

Carter's compositions have also left their mark. Stan Getz and Kenny Barron made "People Time" a staple of their duets: