August 7, 2002

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MR. CARTER :

"I've been to a lot of birthday parties and some of them were mine."
-Benny Carter at his 90th Birthday Celebration

Glenn Dryfoos, Brothers Judd jazz correspondent, writes :
Benny Carter (1907-), one of the great figures in jazz history and one of my heroes, turns 95 on Thursday (DOB: 8/8/07). To put his career and longevity in some perspective, he was a world-famous musician while Babe Ruth was still playing for the Yankees, and to my knowledge he's the only person to have recorded on every technology from Edison's wax cylinder to DVD's. He's now retired from playing, although he still composes.

Here's a decent piece on him by the LA Times' jazz critic (who's not much of a writer). But a sense of what Benny is like comes through. (As the writer points out, it's hard to see why Ken Burns didn't make more use of him in "Jazz.") Also, the article mentions the last gigs he played (when he was 90 1/2, he did a week at Catalina's). Mom and Dad were visiting on the first night, and we went to the show. Benny played as well as I'd heard him in years, and in fact, his playing got stronger as the weekend went on. I took Mom around to meet him afterward, and he was even more than his usually gracious self. I remember having the weird sensation of watching Mom meet someone who's music she listened to when she was a kid.

There's also a great bio of Benny written by the late Princeton professor Morroe Berger. The second edition was just released, with an update (the first edition is almost 20 years old) by Ed Berger, Prof. Berger's oldest son and a curator/librarian at The Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers.


Posted by Orrin Judd at August 7, 2002 10:44 AM
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