Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Early Benny Carter

Musicians who live a long time often resent the attention paid to their earliest recordings, favouring their more recent output. It's understandable, of course - artists want to feel like they are improving. If Benny Carter was still alive today, I'm fairly certain he wouldn't approve of my preference for his earlier recordings - to me, his 1920s/30s/40s recordings are (together with Johnny Hodges and the like) the peak of swinging alto sax. After that, I find his sound less pleasing and his ideas not so unique. Have a listen to the sparkling articulation and tone he demonstrates with the Little Chocolate Dandies in 1929 on these two:

'That's the Way I Feel Today':

 'Six or Seven Times':

These two, by the similar Chocolate Dandies a year later, also show a big, woody clarinet sound that reminds me of Bechet in its authority:

 'Bugle Call Rag'

'Dee Blues'

Musicians may prefer to see their evolution as constant improvement, but listeners will always find the music that appeals most to them.