Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Discovering: Benny Carter

You know, I somewhat pride myself on knowing music. Especially good music. What a joy it is to be humbled in my knowledge! Yesterday, listening to our local jazz station (the good jazz, not the "smooth jazz" that makes me hate saxophone music) I heard a show remembering Benny Carter. To my shame, I had never heard of Benny Carter before. To my joy, I now have.

Benny Carter recorded music over nine decades, and was a huge influence in jazz, really introducing the jazz saxophone, introducing jazz to Europe, and the formation of early swing music. Here are a few quotes said about Benny Carter:

The problem of expressing the contributions that Benny Carter has made to popular music is so tremendous it completely fazes me, so extraordinary a musician is he. - Duke Ellington

Everybody ought to listen to Benny. He’s a whole musical education. - Miles Davis

He’s everything a musician would want to be. - Ella Fitzgerald

When I grow up I want to be just like Benny Carter. - Dizzy Gillespie
Thankfully, it is never too late to start listening to great music. The radio program I was listening to played his original composition "Symphony in Riffs", starting with a recording from the 1930's and then segued to a performance from 1992 in San Antonio. If anything, Carter's playing sounded better when he was in his eighties than in his twenties. Amazing!

Here is a video of Benny Carter playing with a few others in 1995 - when he was 88 years old! His solo comes in at 3:00; the song is "Crazy Rhythm". And it is amazing how great his music is even in his twilight. Enjoy.


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