Benny Goodman took some stylistic chances during his 11-year tenure with Capitol. He listened closely to, then flirted with, bebop during this time, not altering his own swing-based playing but inserting it into a bop framework. He also played traditional swing in various small groups. The sessions covered on this most recent Mosaic four-disc (six-album) set were originally issued on a number of 10" and 12" albums, as well as the CDs BG in Hi Fi and The Benny Goodman Story, a Japanese issue.
An interesting if quite diverse set, this album is best remembered for featuring up-and-coming singer Bobby McFerrin on a few selections. McFerrin has his moments, as does tenor saxophonist Chico Freeman and such notable sidemen as altoist Steve Coleman, John Purcell on reeds, either Kenny Werner or Mark Thompson on piano, Freeman's longtime bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Billy Hart, among others. The material (by Freeman, Thompson and Werner) is actually not that significant, and the date on a whole is less memorable than many of Chico Freeman's earlier sets, but it has its enjoyable spots.
The Jazztet had been in existence for two years when they recorded what would be their final LPs, this date plus Another Git Together. The personnel (other than the two co-leaders flugelhornist Art Farmer and tenor-saxophonist Benny Golson) had completely changed since 1960 but the group sound was the same. The 1962 version of the Jazztet included trombonist Grachan Moncur III, pianist Harold Mabern, bassist Herbie Lewis and drummer Roy McCurdy and it is remarkable to think that this talent-filled group could not find enough jobs in order to stay together…
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.
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The Language of Drumming provides a fascinating look into Benny Greb’s unique approach to making music on the drums—a complete and practical approach that is based on a concept familiar to everyone: learning a language.