Jazz great Benny Carter dead at 95


Alto sax player and arranger Benny Carter passed away on Saturday, removing one of the last living links to the birth of the big band.

Carter had a long and impressive career as a player, band leader, and arranger. He made his recording debut in 1927 and worked with most of the jazz greats of the 30s and 40s, at various times leading his own big band. He was one of the first jazz musicians to seek his fortune abroad, becoming a staff arranger for the BBC in England in the mid-30s.

By the 50s Carter was known primarily as an arranger and composer of such jazz standards as “When Lights Are Low.” However, he made an impressive comeback as a player in the late 60s, 1970s, and 1980s. Carter lived to play, and kept at it well into his 90s (his 90th birthday bash at the Hollywood Bowl couldn’t be held on his actual birthday because he was already booked to play a concert that day!)

Those wishing to sample Carters tight, elegant arrangements and playing may want to start with 1961’s FURTHER DEFINITIONS, which features Carter playing with an all star saxophone section that includes Coleman Hawkins, Phil Woods, and Charlie Rouse.

More deaths! :frowning:


I’ve heard ol’ Benny play live more times than I can think in various clubs here in NYC. And own MANY of his recordings, dating back to the 1930s. Including a Jazz at the Philharmonic date from the late 1940s where he shares the stage with Charlie Parker and Johnny Hodges, and you have to concentrate (but not TOO hard) to figure out whose alto is who’s.

Ukulele Ike, could you suggest a few recordings?

I have Further Definitions and maybe a few others, but don’t know my Benny Carter very well. I love his tone and his swing, though. And I have always been amazed that someone could influence Johnny Hodges and still be around in the 1990s.