BC, alto sax. 1-8. With Teddy Wilson, p, and Jo Jones, dr. 9-16. With Don Abney, p, George Duvivier, b, and Louis Bellson, dr. 17-19. With Oscar Peterson, p, Herb Ellis, guit, Ray Brown, b, Bobby White, dr.
This exceptionally strong album showcases Benny Carter, who should have been declared a National Treasure, and it does it without frills. That's a Good Thing when you have a player as strong and as inventive as Carter was. Carter, a masterful altoist and not much less talented trumpeter (he doesn't play trumpet here, just sax), continued to play eloquently up to his death at the age of 95 in 2003. Listening to him on these small group sessions, one is struck by the elegance of his tone, which is lyrical and smooth, matched only by fellow alto player Johnny Hodges. But one is struck too by the fluidity and inventiveness of his solo lines. Carter may not have played bop but he could phrase and move as flexibly as the great bop players could, and there is an architecture to his solos that makes them compelling listening.
The best cuts on this CD are the first eight trio sessions where Carter is matched with two players who truly were his equals -master pianist Teddy Wilson and master drummer Jo Jones. I grew into jazz in the earl fifties and the pianists I listened to then comped spare chords when they were accompanying a horn and played mostly strings single notes when they soloed. What a pleasure it is to listen to Wilson's two-handed accompaniment behind Carter, which embraced full fleshed melody fragments and rhythm figures. Carter and Wilson obviously dug playing together. Jones plays well on brushes but so close is the rapport between Carter and Wilson that he is almost superfluous. Still, as always, he moves the pace along and his short drum solos, on brushes, are tasty and fun.
The quartet and quintet sessions suffer by comparison but are actually quite good. The piano seems undermiked on both sessions -not quite in balance with Carter's sax. Neither Abney nor Peterson is a Teddy Wilson but both are adequate and it is a pleasure to have Duvivier and Ray Brown on bass -both are strong players. Bellson is an adequate drummer, White ditto, and Herb Ellis doesn't seem to have much to do in his three cuts except play rhythm chords. But my oh my, does Carter wail on EVERY cut!
Do I have a favorite Carter solo? What about all of them?
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