Tuesday, July 15, 2003
Los Angeles =Jazz great Benny Carter hardly ever looked back. He enjoyed whatever he was doing at the moment -- composing or arranging, improvising on the alto sax or trumpet, leading a band or making opportunities for other black musicians.
"I don't look back at the good old days," Carter once said. "The good old days are here and now."
Carter died Saturday at age 95 after being hospitalized for about two weeks with bronchitis and other problems, family friend and publicist Virginia Wicks said Sunday.
"A big, big person walked out of the room yesterday," said friend and producer Quincy Jones. "A great human being."
In a career that spanned more than six decades, Carter performed with or wrote music for nearly all of jazz's swing-era greats, including Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller.
Carter's compositions, which include "When Lights Are Low" (1936) and "Blues in My Heart" (1931), became jazz and big band standards, and many saxophone and trumpet players continue to measure their work against his solos.
"You got Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and my man, the Earl of Hines, right? Well, Benny's right up there with all them cats," Louis Armstrong once said. "Everybody that knows who he is calls him 'King.' He is a king."
His foray into arranging began in 1928 when he was a member of Charlie Johnson's Orchestra. In 1943, Carter was the arranger for "Stormy Weather," an all black musical. He went on to arrange the scores for "An American in Paris" (1951) and "The Guns of Navarone" (1961), among others.
He later composed and arranged music for 20 television series, including "M Squad" (1957-60), "Ironside" (1967-75), "The Name of the Game" (1968-71) and "It Takes a Thief" (1968-70).
Carter was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987 and the congressional designation as a National Treasure of Jazz in 1988.
He enjoyed a resurgence in the 1990s for a series of albums on the MusicMasters label, winning two more Grammy Awards and receiving a Kennedy Center lifetime achievement award.
In 2000, he was presented with the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton.