Benny Carter: Blue Star
Benny Carter (alto sax)
The King (Original Jazz Classics 883)
John B. Williams (bass), Jake Hanna (drums).
Composed by Benny Carter.
Recorded: Los Angeles, CA, February 11, 1976
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
Much like J.J. Johnson, Benny Carter virtually disappeared from the active jazz scene for a number of years in order to write for film and television. The King (the nickname given to him by Ben Webster), was his first jazz record date in ten years, and was a superb reminder of his prowess as both a player and composer. From this point, at age 68, to his death in 2003, Carter would record prolifically and memorably in various contexts. Producer Norman Granz wisely suggested that Carter, for the first time, do an album devoted exclusively to his own compositions.
Of the eight Carter tunes performed, "Blue Star" is a standout, quite simply one of Benny's finest melodies. A version featuring Coleman Hawkins had appeared on Carter's acclaimed 1961 Further Definitions, and it receives another exquisite treatment here. Flanagan's lovely intro precedes Carter, whose alto sings the romantic theme with a sultry/sweet tone, backed by both Jackson's cascading single-note lines and Flanagan's more austere chording. Jackson hits the ground running as his fervent, moving solo maintains a relentless pace from beginning to end. Pass, in contrast, is poignantly melodic during his concise improvisation, only to be answered by yet another exuberant, cascading statement by Jackson, who is in top form. Carter finally takes center stage, and solos with a considerably more biting tone than he displayed on the opening, his attack contradicting his somewhat exaggerated urbane or genteel persona, and his lines more legato and modern sounding than some might have expected. For the final reading of the melody, however, Carter reverts to a more elegant, less stylish tone.
Reviewer: Scott Albin