Monday, September 28, 2009
Benny CARTER - Sax ala Carter! 1960 (REPOST)
Label: Blue Note / Capitol
Audio CD: 2004
This review is from: Sax ala Carter! (Audio CD)
Originally released on United Artists in 1960, this very pleasant album features Benny Carter's fluid, inventive alto sax playing in a superb quartet setting (Jimmy Rowles - p, Leroy Vinnegar - b, Mel Lewis - d). Carter was a brilliant player with a tone instantly recognizable - and he made everything he played seem as easy as breathing. There is a constant dancing quality to his soloing, most evident here on MOON OF MANAKOORA and the two takes of FRIENDLY ISLANDS, though it's obvious on all the medium and up-tempo selections. An unexpected treat is Benny playing soprano sax on one tune, a rare occurrence, though Benny could and did play all the reads as well as trumpet and trombone. Rowles is an excellent piano player and plays very bluesy on GHOST OF A CHANCE and also takes an intriguing solo on THE ONE I LOVE. Apparently meant and marketed for those who thought they liked mainstream jazz provided it didn't stray too far from the melody, this CD is not a banged out throw off; the playing is high in quality (as is everything associated with Benny Carter) and gives much pleasure with repeated listening. Definitely worth having.
This album represents just a small facet of Benny Carter's musical activity during the '50s and '60s, a good deal of which was occupied by writing and arranging in Hollywood. Nevertheless, Carter always seemed to be involved in a number of projects, this 1960 release being just one.
Accompanied by a first-rate trio of Jimmy Rowles (piano), Leroy Vinnegar (bass) and Mel Lewis (drums), the "King" tackled a collection of fairly familiar tunes on a then-United Artists album in 1960. As biographer and annotator Ed Berger points out, while the album was aimed at a broader listening audience than strictly jazz fans, Carter did not simplify his solos to suit the hoi polloi.
Brevity being the soul of wit, nearly all of the selections weigh in at about three minutes apiece, yet Carter and company manage to cram a lot of playing into each cut. Even when stating the various melodies, whether on "All or Nothing at All," "Ghost of a Chance," or a surprisingly uptempo "For All We Know," Carter shows you can wring a lot out of a tune before getting to a formal solo. Rowles is, at times, downright ebullient, in both his accompaniment and his solos, similarly cramming a lot of ideas into limited space without sounding forced or contrived.
The backing of the trio is typically rock-solid for a Carter small group, with Vinnegar and Lewis providing the leader with the strong support he liked. Lewis plays with a forcefulness that he displayed with larger ensembles of the time, such as Terry Gibbs' big band, a style that mellowed after he returned East and started his own band with Thad Jones.
The album contains two interesting Carter footnotes, his overdubbed saxophone stating the melody on "Friendly Islands" and "Moon of Manakoora," and one real gem—his soprano saxophone playing on "Ennui." Given how he sounds on that tune, it's a shame he never attempted to do an entire album on the instrument.
By Mitchell Seidel.
Benny Carter- (Soprano, alto, & Tenor saxophones);
Jimmy Rowles- (Piano);
Leroy Vinnegar- (Bass);
Mel Lewis- (Drums).
01. And The Angels Sing 2:58
02. Everything I Have Is Yours 3:36
03. I Understand 3:07
04. All Or Nothing At All 3:18
05. I'll Never Smile Again 2:24
06. If I Loved You 3:46
07. Far Away Places 3:25
08. I Should Care 4:00
09. For All We Know 3:02
10. (I Don't Stand A) Ghost Of A Chance With You 2:50
11. The One I Love (Belongs To Someone Else) 3:07
12. Moon Of Manakoora 2:42
13. Ennui 2:21
14. Friendly Islands 3:10
15. Friendly Islands 3:07