Benny Carter: Blue Lou
Benny Carter (alto sax)
Jazz Giant (Original Jazz Classics 167)
Composed by Edgar Sampson & Irving Mills.
Recorded: Los Angeles, June 11, 1957
Rating: 93/100 (learn more)
Nat Hentoff's liner notes for the original Jazz Giant described it as "the first all-jazz, hot, small combo blowing album under Benny Carter's name" since the advent of the LP about 10 years earlier. That was a shame, but since Carter was almost completely immersed in his second career in Hollywood writing for film and TV, he primarily appeared on Norman Granz impromptu jam session dates and little else.
Whoever assembled this intriguing ad hoc septet was either a creative genius or just plain lucky, for it works beautifully. "Blue Lou" is a case in point. First introduced by Carter on a 1933 big band recording, "Blue Lou" was a Swing Era favorite, and the riffing melody with its animated bridge is given a respectful and enthusiastic performance. Ben Webster reminds us that he could still improvise fleetly and forcefully when the setting is right. André Previn is bluesy and flashy in an Oscar Peterson vein. Frank Rosolino's pungent trombone adds texture, and his solo features nimble, incisive phrasing. Barney Kessel's twangy improv is a joyful attention grabber. Finally, Carter takes command with an enticing logic and clever thematic reworkings, swinging relentlessly all the while. Vinnegar and Manne drive the group throughout, maintaining a stimulating pulse. The riffing conclusion comes across as a fitting salute to the big band era.
Reviewer: Scott Albin