Jazz Master Benny Carter Dies at 95

Sun Jul 13, 6:42 PM ET


By MASON STOCKSTILL, Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES - Jazz great Benny Carter, a master of melodic invention on the alto saxophone who also was a renowned composer, instrumentalist, orchestra leader and arranger, has died, friends said Sunday. He was 95.


Carter died Saturday, after being hospitalized for about two weeks with bronchitis and other problems, said family friend and publicist Virginia Wicks.

"A big, big person walked out of the room yesterday," said friend and producer Quincy Jones (news). "A great human being."

Carter was largely self-taught as a musician, playing both saxophone and trumpet before becoming a bandleader in the late 1920s.

In a career that spanned more than six decades, he was considered among the top altoistís in jazz. He performed with or wrote music for nearly all of jazz's early greats, including Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie.

He received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in 1987, and won two Grammy awards during his career.

St. Louis-based trumpeter Clark Terry, another early jazz pioneer, said Carter was truly revered by other musicians.

"We always called him the king because he was probably the most highly respected musician of the whole lot of us," Terry said.

Though he is perhaps best remembered as a saxophonist, Jones said Carter's greatest contributions to the form were his compositions and arrangements.

Carter was a member of a generation of early jazz musicians responsible for changing public attitudes about the style, which grew out of blues and spiritual music and was largely performed by black musicians, Jones said.

"They came out of this thing that was supposed to be the wicked music, and they brought it to life, and it turned into one of our greatest art forms," Jones said.

Bennett Lester Carter was born Aug. 8, 1907, in New York City. He saved up for months to buy a trumpet as a child, turning to saxophone when he couldn't master the trumpet fast enough. By the time he was 15, he was sitting in at nightclubs in Harlem, and at 21 was leading his own band.