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Definition: Carter, (Bennett Lester) Benny (1907–2003) from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

US jazz musician. An outstanding alto saxophonist and freelance arranger, his career spanned eight decades. He led his own bands in the USA and Europe during the 1930s, and settled in Hollywood, California, in 1943, spending the next 40 years as a composer for movies and television.

He was born in New York City. He appeared as an artist-in-residence at Princeton, Cornell, and other universities in the mid-1970s, and resumed a regular concert and recording schedule as a soloist in the 1980s.

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Summary Article: Benny Carter (1907–2003)
from African American Almanac
Saxophonist, Trumpeter, Composer, Bandleader

Bennett “Benny” Lester Carter was born August 8, 1907, in New York City, and was primarily a self-taught musician. He enrolled in Wilberforce College in 1925 but left to join the Horace Henderson Orchestra. Carter started his own big band in 1933 and later moved to Paris and London. He wrote several tunes for Benny Goodman before leaving the United States.

Carter returned in 1938 and worked with both great musicians and composers. Admired and respected by generations of musicians, many of whom “went to school” in his bands (including Sid Catlett, Miles Davis, J. J. Johnson, Max Roach, and Teddy Wilson), Carter helped shape the language of big-band jazz. His scoring for saxophone sections was especially influential. On the alto saxophone, he and Johnny Hodges were the pacesetters before Charlie Parker and bebop. He had few peers as a trumpeter and composed many standards.

Carter was the first black composer to break the color barrier in the Hollywood film studios. He scored many major films and television shows, including M Squad. Carter received an honorary doctorate in music from Princeton University, where he taught, in 1974. He was the subject of what is considered to be one of the best biographies of a jazz artist ever published— Benny Carter: A Life in American Music, in 1982. In 1988 he toured Europe, visited Japan with his own band, performed in Brazil for the first time in his career, and recorded three albums. He continued at the same pace in 1993. Carter was awarded the Kennedy Center Honors for Lifetime Achievement in 1996. He died in 2003.

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