Benny Carter: New York Nights

At 88, Benny Carter still had it: that’s the inescapable conclusion to be drawn from this recital, recorded in June, 1995, at Iridium in New York. “It” in this context is one of the most distinctive and distinguished alto sax voices in the history of jazz, built on phrasing of genuine inspiration. Ranging from a legato that ranks with Johnny Hodges’ as one of the most beautiful sounds in Western music, to a clipped staccato that brings the architecture of a melody into warm relief, Carter builds his solos with a grand conception that defies most composers, let alone improvisers. He is supported in this set of nine tunes by an able young rhythm section (they would be, relatively speaking, wouldn’t they?). Chris Neville on piano and Sherman Ferguson on drums offer fine, sensitive support; bassist Steve LaSpina is outstanding, anchoring the band in time and soloing with facility and wit.