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Author: Subject: Benny Carter and Compay Segundo, dead at 95

Zen Peach





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  posted on 7/14/2003 at 03:10 PM
Two great musicians have died, Benny Carter and Compay Segundo, and both at 95 years of age.

Benny Carter is simply one of the most important trumpet players and arrangers in the history of jazz music. His arrangements broke new ground and directly affected the way the music was played and led to the big band sound. In the 1940's he moved west to California and broke more ground bringing his original sounds of jazz into the movies and TV shows. He arranged the music for the movies Stormy Weather, with Lena Horne, and An American in Paris, with Gene Kelly, and television shows as well. He also lived in England in the 1930's and became the arranger for the BBC's dance band at that time.

Miles Davis said this about Benny Carter, "Everyone should listen to Benny Carter. He's a whole musical education." Duke Ellington said, "The problem of expressing the contributions that Benny Carter has made to popular music is so tremendous it completely fazes me, so extraordinary a musician is he."(Metronome, 11/43.) And Louis Armstrong said this; "You got Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and my man, the Earl of Hines, right? Well, Benny's right up there with all them cats. Everybody that knows who he is calls him 'King.' He is a king!"

That says it all for me. There are and were a lot of great players in jazz, but when you add to that the word 'arranger,' it means you truly know the music inside and out. Benny Carter was one of the best ever.

Benny Carter--August 8, 1907  July 12, 2003

If you have seen the wonderful documentary, Buena Vista Social Club, the excellent movie about American musician Ry Cooder's trip to Cuba to round up the old time musicians that still inhabit the island, then you know of Compay Segundo. Still smoking cigars and flirting with women into his 90's, Compay was also an excellent guitarist and singer in the old Cuban style. Along with his cure for a hangover, (a consumme made from the neckbone of a chicken), his singing, guitar playing, and spark were a big part of the movie as well as the accompanying CD that won a Grammy Award and sold millions of copies world-wide. Apparently he was touring and playing for audiences up until May of this year. Said Compay in an interview, "The flowers of life come to everyone. One has to be ready not to miss them. Mine arrived after I was 90." He played what was called Cuban 'Son' music, that combined the rhythms of African music with the lyrical bent of classical Spanish music. He also developed a guitar called the 'armonica' that is a seven-stringed guitar with a seventh middle string for added harmonies.

Here is an excerpt from an interview Compay gave for PBS;

BA: What was the music scene like in 1930s and 40s Cuba?

CS: I remember from those days the Septeto Nacional, el Septeto Habanero. There was the Orquesta de Fernando Collazo, the Orquesta Maravillas del Siglo, there were Cachao and Jesus Lopez. I also remember the Conjunto of Arsenio Rodríguez. That was a great one. That band was instrumental because they were among the first to put together that type of conjunto. But here in Havana around that time there were the 'sociedades.' And at the beginning when the septetos began, the sociedades didn't want anybody playing bongos. The sociedades were puritanical, they didn't want bongos, they said 'those are for the black people.' But as time went by, that music gained popularity, so they had to introduce it into the sociedades too. It was beautiful, happy music.

"I'm from that time of the septetos. Each one had its own style. In those days, you could distinguish the sound of the different conjuntos, and the different orquestas. These days it's all more simple. When you here a conjunto and you hear another conjunto, you think it's like a continuation of the first. It's all the same, same, same. There's no variety, just the same music. Same thing with dancing. Before, the couples danced. The man felt the heat of the woman, there were even kisses on the dance floor. But today it's different, the woman jumps this way and the man jumps that way. Before, women would buy a dress and the man, to place his hand on her back, had to use a perfumed and very expensive handkerchief. Now, they're jumping up and down and on one night the dress is dirtied from all that sweat, it's a disaster. Before, people danced very classy, the party would end and the dresses would still be clean. That's the difference between today and yesterday.

"Back then, a dance was a show. Because at a dance hall the best dancers would show up. There'd be groups of the best. A dancer would come up and say, 'Get out of there, you don't know how to do that dance.' There were dance competitions. Not today. Today there's just a bunch of jumping and sweating. I think they're mistreating art a bit, because art is not about that. I've visited Italy, France, England, with a quartet. And you can have an orquesta of 16 professores, but when I play people are going to hear me. But why? Because people are very interested in my poetry, in what I say. But with a salsa orchestra, you can't hear the poetry. You hear the trombones, the trumpet, the keyboards, you hear everything, except what the singer is saying. They should rectify that, it's a failure. I say it's a failure. One time in Spain I was playing and a trumpeter got up to accompany my quartet and people covered their ears. They better rectify that. Every time I talk about this, I say: when the singer is singing, he must be respected, you must be able to hear what he's saying. You can't put a trombone and a drum up there, and a microphone on the drum, microphones on everybody. You can't hear what he's saying."

Old school.

Compay Segundo--November 18, 1907--July 14, 2003

Rest in peace, Benny Carter and Compay Segundo

Derek H

 

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Sublime Peach



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  posted on 7/14/2003 at 03:52 PM
A sad day for music fans. I loved them both. Kudos to Ry Cooder for bringing the worlds attention to those Cuban musicians.

 

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