Vine Street Rumble

Benny Carter


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Bennett Lester Carter, a multi-talented musician known as an alto saxophonist, trumpeter, arranger, composer, and bandleader, was born on August 8, 1907, in New York City. His parents, with his father being a guitarist and his mother proficient in organ and piano, introduced him to music at an early age. Bennett initially began piano lessons.

His initial aspiration was to become a trumpeter, but after discovering that he couldn’t master the instrument within a few hours, he exchanged it at a music store for a C-melody saxophone, although the trumpet would eventually become his preferred instrument.

By 1924, Bennett Carter was already performing on the alto saxophone with June Clark’s band, and he went on to play with various ensembles, including Billy Paige’s Broadway Syncopators, Lois Deppe’s Serenaders, Earl Hines, Horace Henderson, and James P. Johnson.

In 1927, Bennett Carter made his recording debut with Charlie Johnson’s Paradise Ten, displaying a distinctive sound on the alto saxophone from the very start.

Between 1928 and 1931, he played the alto saxophone and contributed arrangements to Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra before taking on the role of leader for McKinney’s Cotton Pickers from 1931 to 1932. Even at this early stage, Benny Carter was already recognized as a significant altoist, with Johnny Hodges as one of his contemporaries. He was also a proficient trumpeter and an influential arranger-composer.

Carter led his own big band from 1932 to 1934, collaborated with Willie Bryant, and spent the years 1935 to 1938 in Europe, where he was treated as a musical icon. During this period, he was exceptionally active, recording not only on the alto and trumpet but also on clarinet, tenor saxophone, piano, and as a vocalist.

Upon returning to the United States, Benny Carter led a big band from 1938 to 1941, settled permanently in Los Angeles in 1943, led a big band for the subsequent three years, and became deeply involved in studio work. He continued to pursue his career as a jazz soloist, touring with Jazz At The Philharmonic and participating in numerous recording sessions.

From 1965 to 1975, Carter primarily worked as a studio arranger. However, he made a return to full-time playing, enjoying two more decades of active performance before his retirement in 1997 at the remarkable age of 90. Even at this point, he was very much in his prime, marking 70 years since his initial recording.

In 2001, Benny Carter made a significant contribution to his extensive discography by recording a piano solo, possibly making him the only musician to appear on records in nine different decades.

In addition to his unique sound and swing style on the alto and trumpet, Benny Carter, who penned numerous arrangements, composed notable songs such as “Blues In My Heart,” “Cow Cow Boogie,” and “When Lights Are Low.”

Here is a performance of his composition “Vine Street Rumble” with a big band in the 1990s.


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