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Benny Carter
Songbook,  MusicMasters CD 01612-65134-2 (77:36)

Sing along with Benny

As a legendary jazz alto saxophonist and arranger, Benny Carter is not well-known as a songwriter, yet he’s written hundreds of classic American popular songs. His very first composition "Nobody Knows How Much I Love You" was a collaborative effort with Fats Waller back in 1928. Since then, Carter’s compositions have been recorded by such singers as Billy Eckstine, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Mel Torme, Tony Bennett, and even the Judds.

Songbook represents the first collection of Carter’s compositions and, according to the liner notes, he wanted them "reinterpreted" by a diverse group of vocalists. In fact, he left all the phrasing and even the tempo entirely up to the individual singers. From Dianne Reeves’ "Only Trust Your Heart" to Marlena Shaw’s moody "Rain" to Billy Stritch’s yearning in "Speak Now," the songs all sound fresh and original.

Of the fifteen songs, Carter is solely responsible for the lyrics on six and he collaborated on three others. Carter wrote the mournful "I Was Wrong" with Joe Williams in mind back in 1992, and here Williams gives it the kind of heartfelt rendition Carter certainly must have been looking for. "We had a good thing and I knew it/ And like a silly fool I blew it/ I thought that life was just a song/ I was wrong all along."

"Cow-Cow Boogie" became a commercial wartime hit when it was recorded by Ella Fitzgerald and the Ink Spots back in 1943. The fine scat singer Jon Hendricks gives a first rate performance on this happy and up tempo song.

Throughout the CD, the musicians accompany each singer especially well. This must have been difficult given that all of the singers were recorded live with little or no rehearsal sessions. Warren Vache on cornet, Chris Neville on piano, and Carter on alto all take turns soloing between verses with an understated elegance that compliments each vocalist.

Lucky for us, this is the first in a companion set and we should see the next CD before too long.–  Mark Craemer


Benny Carter, alto sax. Warren Vache, cornet. Chris Neville, piano. Steve LaSpina, bass. Sherman Ferguson, drums. On selected tracks: Gene DiNovi, piano. John Heard, bass. Roy McCurdy, drums. Vocalists: Dianne Reeves, Carmen Bradford, Kenny Rankin, Joe Williams, Marlena Shaw, Jon Hendricks, Diana Krall, Billy Stritch, Shirley Horn, Bobby Short, Ruth Brown, Weslia Whitfield, Nancy Marano, and Peggy Lee.


Produced by Ed Berger and Danny Kapilian. Recorded June, July and August 1995 at Group IV Studios in Hollywood and Master Sound in Astoria, NY.

song titles

Only Trust Your Heart • All That Jazz • I Was Wrong • Rain • Cow-Cow Boogie • Fresh Out Of Love • Speak Now • A Kiss From You • You Bring Out The Best In Me • My Kind Of Trouble Is You • When Lights Are Low • Lonely Woman • Key Largo • We Were In Love • I See You

Copyright © 1997 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.