Benny Carter

The Urbane Sessions

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This excellent double CD wraps up the complete reissuance of altoist Benny Carter's Verve recordings of the 1950s. The first CD features his horn backed by strings, and although not all of the arrangements are inspiring, Carter consistently uplifts the music. Although ballad-oriented, there are swinging versions of "With a Song in My Heart" and "Symphony" (the latter a classic rendition); the 16 selections are joined by ten alternate takes. The second disc features Carter in small group sessions. There are nine performances (including a ballad medley and one alternate take) in a quintet with the fiery trumpeter Roy Eldridge, pianist Bruce McDonald, bassist John Simmons, and drummer Alvin Stoller. In addition there are four selections that feature the unusual (but quite coherent) duo of Eldridge (who overdubbed on piano for one track) and Stoller; apparently Art Tatum did not show up for that hoped-for trio session. There are two jam session-style numbers that match Carter with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and trombonist Bill Harris, and the two-fer is rounded off by an alternate version of "Street Scene" featuring Carter with the Oscar Peterson Quartet. This important release is both a historical gap-filler and overflowing with great music.