Bennett Lester Carter (August 8, 1907 – July 12, 2003) was an American jazz alto saxophonist, clarinetist, trumpeter, composer, arranger, and bandleader. He was a major figure in jazz from the 1930s to the 1990s, and was recognized as such by other jazz musicians who called him King. In 1958, he performed with Billie Holiday at the legendary Monterey Jazz Festival.The National Endowment for the Arts honored Benny Carter with its highest honor in jazz, the NEA Jazz Masters Award for 1986. He was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987, winner of the Grammy Award in 1994 for his solo "Prelude to a Kiss", and also the same year, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2000 awarded the National Endowment for the Arts, National Medal of Arts, presented by President Bill Clinton. Born in New York in 1907, the youngest of three children and the only boy, received his first music lessons on piano from his mother. Largely self-taught, by age fifteen, Carter was already sitting in at Harlem night spots. From 1924 to 1928, Carter gained valuable professional experience as a sideman in some of New York's top bands. As a youth, Carter lived in Harlem around the corner from Bubber Miley who was Duke Ellington's star trumpeter, Carter was inspired by Miley and bought a trumpet, but when he found he couldn't play like Miley he traded the trumpet in for a saxophone. For the next two years he played with such jazz greats as cornetist Rex Stewart, clarinetist-soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet, pianists Earl Hines,Willie "The Lion" Smith, pianist Fats Waller, pianist James P. Johnson, pianist Duke Ellington and their various groups.
Here, for the first time on CD, 61 minutes (20 tunes) with the Benny Carter Orchestra; radio broadcasts from between 1939 and 1946 recorded both at a ballroom and in the studio in Los Angeles, and at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. The repertoire consists of popular tunes of the day as well as Benny Carter originals. Besides writing many of the tunes, arranging and conducting the orchestra, Carter is featured soloist on alto sax, trumpet and clarinet. Carter’s big band arrangements feature distinct background riffs that establish a mood and a solid launching pad for the soloists.The sound quality of the rare radio broadcasts on this CD has been greatly improved and restored. Although this music was written and performed sixty years ago, it still sounds fresh today, thanks to Benny Carter’s unique creativity as composer. The music swings like mad, and the listener can imagine the dancers enjoying themselves on the ballroom floor while Benny Carter’s Orchestra performed this music.Benny Carter, as soloist, is the star of the show, displaying exquisite, yet often unpredictable phrasing, and constant musical inventiveness.