Benny Carter: Nightfall




Benny Carter (tenor sax, clarinet)


Benny Carter and His Orchestra: 1933-1936 (Classics 530)

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Benny Carter (tenor sax, clarinet), Ted Heath (trombone),

Max Goldberg (trumpet), Tommy McQuater (trumpet), Duncan Whyte (trumpet), Bill Mulraney (trombone), Andy McDevitt (reeds), E.O. Pogson (reeds), Buddy Featherstonhaugh (tenor sax), Pat Dodd (piano), George Elliot (guitar), Al Burke (bass), Ronnie Gubertini (drums)


Composed by Benny Carter


Recorded: London, April 15, 1936


Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

Jazz history books will tell you how Lester Young single-handedly forged a more lithe and fluid approach to the tenor sax, offering an alternative to the dominant Coleman Hawkins paradigm. But check out Benny Carter's tenor solo on his 1936 recording of "Nightfall"órecorded a half-year before Young's first studio session. You will find discover that another advanced musical thinker was already working on a lighter, more overtly melodic conception of jazz.

Carter's versatility made it easy to miss such achievements. He is usually remembered as an alto saxophonist. Or as a composer and arranger. Or as a trumpeter. But I assure you that if Benny Carter had just focused on the tenor sax, his name would be mentioned routinely when the major stylists on that horn are discussed. Then again, the composition here is just as intriguing as the sax solo, and is one of a series of pieces from this era in which Carter experimented with a relaxed style of quasi-chamber jazz. "Nightfall" (and other Carter gems from the mid-1930s) are seldom heard these days. But don't let that fool you into thinking that these aren't important works in the evolution of jazz. Few artists from the pre-WWII years anticipated the development of a cool jazz sensibility in the 1950s with more prescience than the wide-ranging Mr. Carter.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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  • 1 Roger Strong // Jun 01, 2009 at 07:39 AM
    Thanks for getting me to listen to this once again. A very accomplished track for an English band of the time with some good work from all the musicians. Presumably that's Carter of clarinet on the first solo. Certainly the tenor solo is lighter and smoother than was common at the time. If it was played blindfold I doubt that anyone would guess at Carter. Nice.