Tag Archives: London

Benny Carter Tames The Tiger

Licking one’s wounds after mixing up a pair of “Tigers” is as good a reason as any to listen to Benny Carter. Here’s the legendary multi-instrumentalist, arranger, composer, bandleader and educator taking on “Tiger Rag” [just click the link below to listen, and thank Yves Francois for sharing]:

“Tiger Rag,” Benny Carter And His Swing Quartet: Benny Carter, alto sax and trumpet; Gene Rodgers, piano; Bernard Addison, guitar; Wally Morris, bass; George Elrick, drums. Recorded June 20, 1936 in London.

Gene Rodgers in the 1947 film, “Shoot to Kill.”

Carter treats the ubiquitous standard as a vehicle for his big, slick tenor sax, ending with an Armstrong-inspired coda on trumpet. He obviously has chops but they’re heard in the effortless delivery of ornate, well-constructed lines rather than showy licks or high notes. He doesn’t kill the “Tiger” so much as play with it. The rhythm section swings with gritty momentum and each member gets to solo. Gene Rodgers’ piano and Wally Morris’ tasteful slaps stand out for this blogger.

Carter is not a personal favorite as far as players (hence the mix-up) but his creativity and technique are undeniable. His eight decade career and his winning the esteem of everyone from Duke Ellington to Miles Davis aren’t just coincidences. Still, it’s shame there aren’t more “Tigers” with just soloist and rhythm section from this era; it would be interesting to hear what Ben Whitted, Babe Russin or others players without Carter’s historical street cred would have to say in such a setting.

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“Get to Know…” a Venetian Popera Composer

Thanks to The Boston Musical Intelligencer for running my piece on pop star of yestercentury and neglected composer Baldassare Galuppi.  I am thrilled to see the spate of Galuppi recordings over the years, and hope this article will entice more listeners to experience Galuppi’s characteristically lyrical, often witty and always beautiful music.

You can read my recap of Galuppi’s works (and his rotten tomato worthy debut) on BMInt here.  All of the music mentioned is also available on YouTube, so happy listening!

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Benny Carter Kills That Tiger

Corrected November 24, 2012 (see postscript).

Skip the context!  The promoter or steamliner that brought Benny Carter Jimmy Dorsey to London on June 20, 1936 July 15, 1930 will never be as compelling as what he recorded that day [just click play below]:

CarterDorsey’s choice of material is yet another detail: he rides “Tiger Rag” through several choruses of swinging, thoroughly virtuosic deconstruction, leaving just a teasing elision of the original melody to start his solo.  One second in and it’s pure Carter Dorsey throughout.

First on clarinet, he adds his own lines over the all-too-familiar stop-time and call and response sections.  Two breaks show off a piping upper register [at 0:34 in the above clip], followed by a burbling chalumeau [at 0:38].  Rapid octaves, a sly fadeout and a drum fill then segue into CarterDorsey’s alto saxophone.  Not content playing two instruments, he also plays two saxophonists, starting with his own luxuriant tone and buttery phrasing, then grafting them onto a rendition of Jimmy Dorsey’s his own “Tiger Rag” variation to finish the side.

One player, two horns, and it’s riveting from start to finish.  The music is simply “Benny Carter. whoever happens to be blowing this old tune to bits, which happens to be “Jimmy Dorsey” here.  The record and chord changes just happen to be labelled differently.

Yup, He Blew Great Trumpet Too

Though Carter did play magnificently, he’s not this writer’s cup of tea and therefore not a player that’s very familiar to him, hence the above corrections.  For more information, please see here.

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