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Benny Carter: The Radio Years: 1939-46

Is there any big-band nostalgia as fascinating as the “remote” radio broadcasts from the late ’20s to the mid-’40s, when most Americans (some via crystal sets) were introduced to big bands? Thanks to a German company, Storyville, there exists a Jazz Unlimited series called The Radio Years that embraces big-band broadcasts between 1937 and 1945.

On Benny Carter’s edition of The Radio Years, we get to hear more than an hour of his bands, recorded between 1939 and 1946 at four different venues. Music historian Floyd Levin has done a fine job probing Carter’s remarkable memory, but his booklet plays it safe, using “probably” when it comes to personnel. Listed among the 18-piece bands: Miles Davis, J. J. Johnson, Freddy Webster, George Treadwell and Vic Dickenson, none of whom solo. Tyree Glenn is heard briefly on vibes, and Eddie Heywood has one eight-bar piano solo. Carter dominates on alto, trumpet and clarinet. Add to that his arranging skills and you have to be impressed by his consistently good taste (Frank Comstock contributed three arrangements; Johnson did one) but Carter admitted to Levin, “I would have preferred some slower tempos.” Highlight: Carter’s chart and alto sound on “Ill Wind.”

Originally Published