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Benny Carter: “Misty” and “Blue Lou”

Benny Carter was apparently was one of the class acts in jazz, according to just about everything written about him. Only people who knew him can say that definitively. What any listener can say is how great a musician he was. Here is the start of his bio at SwingMusic.net:

Benny Carter has been as admired as virtually any  saxophonist in jazz. As a trumpeter, although he only occasionally played the  instrument, he achieved a rich tone and had a highly personal and original  style. He will forever be remembered as much for his composing skills as his  playing. His compositions, which include When Lights  Are Low (1936) and Blues in My Heart (1931), became jazz and big band  standards.

While mainly a self-taught musician, Carter came from a musical family and studied piano with his mother and sister at 10 years old before receiving lessons from a private teacher for a year. He turned to the trumpet as an early teen but soon grew impatient and switched to saxophone. His early influences included the growl style trumpeter Bubber Miley and a cousin, trumpeter Cuban Bennett. Carter went to Wilberforce University to study theology but instead left to play with Horace Henderson’s Wilberforce Collegians. Carter worked briefly with Duke Ellington in the 1920s and in 1928 made his recording and arranging debut as a member of Charlie Johnson’s Orchestra. With no formal music education, he taught himself to arrange music on two of the orchestra’s recordings, Charleston Is the Best Dance After All and Easy Money. Later that year, he joined Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra and assumed arrangement duties. Other early affiliations included the bands of Chick Webb (1931), the Chocolate Dandies and McKinney’s Cotton Pickers. Continue Reading…

Here is Carter’s site. “Misty” is above. “Blue Lou,” below, features Carter, Coleman Hawkins, Teddy Wilson, Louie Bellson and Bob Crenshaw.

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--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

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Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.


What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.


The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.