Multi-instrumentalist Benny Carter, whose career spanned eight decades and whose unique voice on the alto saxophone helped define the instrument in jazz, was born on this day (August 8) in Harlem, New York, in 1907.
Carter was an early an integral member of big bands led by Fletcher Henderson, with whom he served as an architect for the Swing Era sound we know today. A talented instrumentalist — he played alto and tenor saxophone, clarinet and trumpet — Carter was also an imaginative arranger whose brilliant orchestrations of songbook standards were definitively modern. Listen, for example, to today’s Song of the Day: “All of Me,” by Carter’s very own orchestra. The bandleader’s arrangement pits a winding, vaguely “bebopish” melodic line against the song’s original chord changes, sounding decades ahead of its time.
Carter’s career was long and prolific. He passed away in 2003 in Los Angeles at the age of 95.