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Benny Carter: Symphony in Riffs

Less a musical offering than a visual tribute to the long, achievement-filled career of alto saxophonist, trumpeter, bandleader and composer-arranger Benny Carter, Symphony in Riffs follows his ascent from fairly humble beginnings in New York City through work with swing bands to fame and wealth in the Hollywood film and TV studios.

This 1989 film by Harrison Engle, with narration by actor Burt Lancaster, is a 58-minute biographical journey in black-and- white and color film clips, as well as still photography. The mostly self-taught Carter, who died in July 2003 at age 95, had a career spanning eight decades, with early notice at the Savoy Ballroom and Apollo Theater in New York in the ’20s, an expatriate stint in Paris and London in the ’30s, more band work upon his return to the U.S., then a move to Hollywood in the ’40s.

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