Saturday, August 6, 2011

Deborah Pearl: Evening Star

Evening Star Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Souvenir of You

Deborah Pearl — a vocalist, lyricist and screenwriter — has idolized Benny Carter most of her life.

Every jazz fan knows about Carter, icon and legend of the alto sax. He was born in New York City in 1907 — yes, 1907 — and lived until 2003, and was an active performer and composer for more than 80 years.

His mother began to teach him to play the piano when he was 10, but he switched to the trumpet in his teens, then finally chose the alto sax.

It’s virtually impossible to find an artist or band with whom Carter hasn’t performed: He played with Horace Henderson in college, Duke Ellington in the 1920s, Fletcher Henderson in ’28 and Chick Webb in ’31. Carter launched his own orchestra in 1932. He moved to Paris in ’35, toured Europe and then returned to the States in ’38, just in time for the swing era. By this time, he had developed his composition and arranging skills to the point where he was doing Hollywood film scores. He also continued to play with the new generation of musicians, including Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, Ray Charles and many others. That continued into the 1980s.

In 1996, Carter received the prestigious Kennedy Center Honor. His other awards are too numerous to count. Sadly, he passed away in 2003.

Pearl chose a baker’s dozen of Carter's compositions, wrote special lyrics for them, then set up recording sessions with two swinging big bands: Carter’s own group and the Rutgers University Orchestra. Carter himself is featured on two of the tracks: "Happy Feet" and "Anniversary Dance."

This album clearly demonstrates that both Carter and his work were essentially ageless. Some of the tunes were written decades ago, but they remain as fresh and "modern" as much of today’s music. Pearl is to be congratulated for a masterful effort that honors both Carter and her own talents.

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