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Spike Hughes and Benny Carter: Spike Hughes and Benny Carter 1933

It was British composer/arranger Spike Hughes’ finest hour when he engaged Benny Carter’s newly formed orchestra to record 12 of his charts and two jam numbers for release on British Decca. Since Hughes’ compositions vary in quality and he had a lot to learn about swing phrasing, the real importance of these recordings rests with the soloists and the sectional precision that Carter inspired. Although not a member of the Carter band, Coleman Hawkins was added as a featured soloist, as was also trumpeter/vocalist Henry “Red” Allen on the second and third sessions. Of the regular sidemen, trombonist Dickie Wells is the most widely featured, with other soloists being trumpeter Bill Dillard, tenorman Chu Berry and flutist Wayman Carver. While “Donegal Cradle Song,” with outstanding sub-tone Hawkins, is unarguably the best performance overall, in close pursuit are “Arabesque,” “Sweet Sorrow Blues,” “Music At Midnight” and a combo version of “Sweet Sue, Just You.”

Following the Hughes titles are the first two complete sessions by the Carter band. Here, it is Carter’s writing and alto work that take precedence over all other factors, since, lacking the powerful solo voices of Hawkins, Allen and Wells, he had only himself and his sidemen to carry the weight. Of these, trumpeters Shad Collins and Dillard, trombonists George Washington and Keg Johnson, tenormen Berry and Johnny Russell, flutist Carver and pianist Teddy Wilson are heard in solo. Note that this collection includes a previously unissued second take of “Devil’s Holiday.”

Originally Published