Benny Carter was a major contributor to the development of jazz, through his playing, which created a definitive alto sax style, his composing, arranging and lecturing, and he was highly regarded for his urbane nature which was reflected in his approach to jazz.
This 2-CD set comprises four albums from the late fifties/early sixties, all recorded in Los Angeles, where Benny had settled in 1942, and is a must for the stellar line-ups involved. "Jazz Giant" dates from 1957/8, and is one of his best small-group albums. It features Ben Webster on tenor sax, Frank Rosolino on trombone, André Previn on piano but for Jimmy Rowles on tracks 2 & 3, Barney Kessel on guitar, Leroy Vinnegar on bass and Shelly Manne on drums. Benny plays trumpet on "I'm Coming Virginia" and "A Walkin' Thing". "Swingin' the `20s" dates from November 1958, pairs Carter with pianist Earl Hines for their first-ever recording date, and retains the rhythm duo of Vinnegar and Manne.
"Sax a la Carter" also features a quartet, namely Jimmy Rowles on piano, Vinnegar on bass and Mel Lewis on drums, and both albums feature songs that had become standards. The compilation concludes with "Aspects", which offers what was then a rare big band setting for Benny, some recorded in summer 1958, the remainder in 1959, with two overlapping big bands. The titles incorporate the names of the months, and Benny solos on them all, together with (amongst others) trumpeters Shorty Sherock, Pete Candoli & Joe Gordon, trombonists Herbie Harper & Frank Rosolini, saxists Buddy Collette & Plas Johnson, pianists Arnold Ross & Gerry Wiggins, guitarists Bobby Gibbons & Barney Kessel, and drummer Shelley Manne.
Scott Yanow wrote of the original issue of Jazz Giant "This timeless music is beyond the simple categories of `swing' or `bop' and should just be called `classic'." That comment could equally well be applied also to the three other albums included here. It's a superlative reissue, in brilliantly remastered sound.
4 Albums: 'Jazz Giant', 'Swingin' the 20's,' Sax A La Carter!', 'Aspects'. Bargain Avid. Benny Carter remains a legend on alto sax, trumpet or clarinet. The music is excellent through all records. His sweet tone and swinging vibrato are standout. Of course, his fellow players are just as important. Frank Rosolino(t), Ben Webster, Earl Hines, Andre Previn, Barney Kessel, Jimmy Rowles add to the formula that provides the recipe.Out of a delightful compilation it is difficult to pick out highlights, but here I go. 'Aspects' and 'Swingin' the 20s' are standout Benny Carter but 'Jazz Giant' ,to me is the one to exemplify his talent. I have had this for years. His encounters with fellow saxophonists and musicians are just as engaging and fabulous. Carter was an arranger and composer of tremendous talent. Pulling these musicians together was another piece of genius. It is notable that his trumpet playing was arguably as good as his saxophone playing. Another remarkable issue of jazz history. Cannot recommend it more highly.