Thursday, October 7, 2010

Benny Carter - Montreux 77

Benny Carter is one of the greatest talents of the jazz world, yet he has never become a household name. His genius, however, as an instrumentalist, composer and arranger has always been apparent to his fellow musicians, and he remained active and in demand into his nineties. Carter began his career in the mid 1920's, and worked with such early Swing bands as McKinney's Cotton Pickers and the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, before leading his own successful swing orchestra. He then went to Europe for five years, working and recording with gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and fellow expatriate Coleman Hawkins. Upon his return to the U.S. in 1939, he successfully reconstituted his orchestra and guested with such stars as Lionel Hampton and Count Basie. After an extended period composing scores for movies and television, Carter returned to the jazz world on a full-time basis in the mid-1970's, producing some of the greatest music of his career over the next two decades, often working with musicians young enough to be his grandchildren or great-grandchildren. The alto sax was his primary instrument, and he was one of the finest practitioners of the swing-based, pre-bebop style that was popular in the 1930's and 1940's. When bebop arrived, Carter was more than capable of grasping some of its intricacies and nuances and incorporated them into his playing, without abandoning his earlier style. For this reason, his playing remained vital and exciting, even as his contemporaries fell from fashion. Carter was also an accomplished trumpeter. His greatest achievements, though, were as a composer and arranger. Only Duke Ellington surpasses Carter as a writer of innovative and sophisticated jazz compositions. His work as an arranger was similarly unique, whether for his own bands or with other artists. "Montreux '77" is one of the great unknown classics of jazz recordings. Recorded at the renowned jazz festival only a few years into his "comeback," this is an often astonishing performance with a sympathetic backing trio. Its hard to believe that Carter was already 70 when this was recorded, because he plays with the fire and intensity of a man half that age. He plays a little trumpet here as well, and if he sounds a bit weaker here, he still plays with great intelligence and beauty. The program are all familiar jazz standards that have seldom been performed better. I feel like an ingrate to state this, but would have been nice to hear a Carter original or two. The recording quality is terrific, as were all of the titles in the series of "Montreux '77" recordings that were released by Pablo Records. This is a wonderful recording, highly recommended to both serious and casual jazz fans alike. Benny Carter, who will turn 94 in 2001, is a treasure, and this is one of the best recordings in his long and accomplished career. - by Ron Frankl, Amazon.com

For this concert at the 1977 Montreux Jazz Festival, Benny Carter was in his musical prime, a condition he has thus far stayed at for over 65 years. Joined by the Ray Bryant Trio, the altoist romps through seven standards and plays some tasteful trumpet on "Body and Soul," proving once again that he is really is ageless; Carter was nearly 70 years old at the time. - by Scott Yanow, AMG

Artist: Benny Carter
Album: Montreux 77
Year: 1977
Label: OJC (24 Bit remastered, 1995)
Runtime: 45:58

Tracks:
1.  Three Little Words (Bert Kalmar/Harry Ruby) 5:45
2.  In A Mellow Tone (Duke Ellington/Milt Gabler) 8:34
3.  Wave (Antonio Carlos Jobim) 6:20
4.  Undecided (Sydney Robin/Charlie Shavers) 5:42
5.  Body And Soul (Frank Eyton/Johnny Green/Edward Heyman/Robert Sour) 7:03
6.  On Green Dolphin Street (Bronislaw Kaper/Ned Washington) 6:28
7.  Here's That Rainy Day (Johnny Burke/James Van Heusen) 6:02

Personnel:
Benny Carter (Alto Saxophone and Trumpet)
Ray Bryant (Piano)
Niels Henning Oersted-Pedersen (Double Bass)
Jimmie Smith (Drums)

5 comments:

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