Benny Carter: Jazz Giant

Carter's rather unimpeachable 1958 small-group session is immaculately repackaged on high-quality vinyl with Nat Hentoff's original notes

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An instant classic since it was released in 1958, Benny Carter Jazz Giant was surprisingly the first small group studio session under his name. Since then, it has never been out of print in various formats – vinyl, cassette and download.

This sumptuous LP edition is a high-quality stereo “re-recording” on a heavy disc, with flawless sound not previously available. Immaculately packaged, it has the original informative and perceptive sleeve notes by Nat Hentoff.

The group assembled by Carter (who plays trumpet as well as alto) complement and obviously inspire him on every track. The rapport with Ben Webster has to be heard to be believed, while Rosolino is inventive and propelling. The rhythm section of Vinegar, Kessel and Manne, with pianistic support and encouragement from Previn and Rowles, guarantees the success of the entire enterprise. (Two additional later tracks, Tiger Rag and Jersey Bounce, minus an indisposed Carter are available on the Complete Sessions version of the album).

Since all of the seven tracks are gems of timeless swing, comparisons are pointless. That said my personal favourites are Old Fashioned Love, with its immediately identifiable Carter alto, while on I’m Coming Virginia he offers two beautifully modulated trumpet solos, with heart melting responses from Webster. Kessel cooks on Blue Lou, and Rosolino growls on How Can You Lose, following Benny’s blues-inflected solo.

As fresh and delightful in 2023 as it was in 1958, it belongs in every self-respecting collection. But don’t take my word for it: Jazz Giant, Richard Cook and Brian Morton maintained, “is a terrific small group record, full of imagination, and the interchanges with Webster are classic”. Enough already.

Discography
Old Fashioned Love; *I’m Coming Virginia; *A Walkin’ Thing; Blue Lou; Ain’t She Sweet; *How Can You Lose; Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me (39.18)
Carter (as, t); Ben Webster (ts); Frank Rosolino (tb); André Previn; Jimmy Rowles (p); Barney Kessel (g); Leroy Vinnegar (b); Shelly Manne (d). Los Angeles, 11 & 22 July, 7 October, 1957, 21 April 1958. *Jimmy Rowles (p); Carter (t).
Craft Recordings CR00384