Altoist/arranger Benny Carter's classic Further Definitions is a revisiting, instrumentation-wise, to the famous 1937 session that Carter and tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins made in France with two top European saxophonists (Andre Ekyan and Alix Combelle) and guitarist Django Reinhardt. The all-star group (which also includes Hawkins, altoist Phil Woods, Charlie Rouse on second tenor, pianist Dick Katz, guitarist John Collins, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and drummer Jo Jones) performs a particularly inspired repertoire.
Benny Carter's MusicMasters catalogue turned up some fine sessions in which colleagues included Clark Terry, Hank Jones, and Doc Cheatham, among a raft of musicians - for the stellar singers, see the end of this review. The recordings, made in various locations, span the years 1990-95 and reveal the altoist seemingly unruffled by the reach of Time, still spinning some sublime and harmonically darting lines as if for the first time.
This boxed set of four CDs recorded between 1987 and 1989 illustrates Benny Carter's versatility performing with four different groups. He was already aged 80 when he recorded the first of these albums, yet there is no sign of ageing. Indeed, Benny stayed alive and active until he was 95. From the very first track, the listener is struck by Carter's pure, mellow sound, putting him in contention with Johnny Hodges and Willie Smith as one of the three altoists in jazz with the sweetest tone. This CD also exhibits Benny as a composer, since he wrote all eleven tunes. Dizzy Gillespie makes guest appearances on three tracks, playing with restraint and harmonizing well with Carter.
It is extremely difficult to believe that Benny Carter was 82 years old at the time of this recording, for his strong sound (nothing feeble about his playing) and fertile ideas on alto make him sound as if he were a contemporary of Phil Woods, who was born 24 years later. Together Carter and Woods form a mutual-admiration society which can be heard on "My Man Phil." The repertoire on this CD is particularly inspired (highlighted by "Sultry Serenade," "I'm Just Wild About Harry" and two versions of the atmospheric "Just a Mood"). Carter takes two trumpet solos while, on "We Were in Love," Woods contributes some tasteful clarinet. A special and relaxed but occasionally hard-swinging date, this Music Masters CD is quite enjoyable.
"…There is a serious dearth of high quality, well-recorded, hi-rez jazz. Well, this disc can help fill an important gap in a hi-rez collection." ~sa-cd.net
Throughout much of the 20th century, Benny Carter was an accomplished composer, arranger, leader, sideman, and multi-instrumentalist. In 2004 the U.K.'s Proper label served his memory well with Proper Box 68 which carefully examines a 22-year segment from his unusually lengthy career. If a reasonably priced 88-track, four-CD set of swing and early modern mainstream jazz dating from 1930-1952 seems like too much of a good thing, maybe you really need to hear more jazz and not less