by George Spink
Benny Carter died in Los Angeles on July 12, 2003. He would have turned 96 the following month. For seven decades, he was the best, playing alto saxophone and trumpet. Carter was highly regarded as a musician, composer, arranger, and orchestra leader. He was indeed a musician's musician.
In July 1995, I heard Carter play a few numbers with Med Flory's Supersax at a Sunday afternoon outdoor concert at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre in the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles. Carter was in his late 80s.
It was a testament to his stature in the jazz world to see the four members of Supersax's reed section, each a highly talented reed player and jazz musician in his own right, watch in awe and admiration as Carter played.
The last time he played in public was in March 1998 at the Catalina Bar and Grill, also in Los Angeles, not far from Carter's home.
Shortly before his death, when Carter was asked if he would perform again in public, he replied, "Oh, no. Not a chance. I'm retired now!" He and his wife, Hilma, lived in the Hollywood Hills, where Carter moved from New York City in the early 1940s.
Our Benny Carter Juke Box Page on Tuxedo Junction offers some 40 selections of his music, dating back to McKinney's Cotton Pickers in 1929 in New York City, to many recordings there in the 1930's, as well as some he made in London, Paris, and The Hague in the mid-1930's, and back in the States with his own big band in the late 1930's and 1940's, and with smaller groups in the 1940's and 1950's.
Here is my favorite song by Benny Carter, Malibu, which I think of every time I drive along Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu, especially late in the evening on a moonlit night: