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.
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.