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  Fantasy -
  Benny Carter: Jazz Giant
  "Jazz Giant"

Benny Carter
Ben Webster
Frank Rosolino
André Previn
Barney Kessel
Leroy Vinnegar
Shelly Manne
Jimmy Rowles
Track listing:
  1. Old Fashioned Love
2. I’m Coming Virginia
3. A Walkin’ Thing
4. Blue Lou
5. Ain’t She Sweet
6. How Can You Lose
7. Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Related titles: 3

Reviews: 4 show all

Review by Oakland May 23, 2007 (4 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
With all the discussion currently going on in Audio Asylun Hi-Rez about two-channel vs. multi-channel and with me being firmly a SACD multi-channel devotee, would you know it I have been listening the last couple of days to recordings that are decidedly not multi-channel. I first listened to Duke Ellington’s “Hi-Fi Uptown” (mono) and then to the subject of this post, the Benny Carter SACD “Jazz Giant” (1957-1958), that I have found to be one of the most enjoyable recordings I own for content (emphasis) and sound (caveat below), irrespective of format, channels, or genre. There is a serious dearth of high quality, well-recorded, hi-rez jazz. Well, this disc can help fill an important gap in a hi-rez collection.

The musicianship is thoroughly professional and with an eclectic line up of top tier jazz men that include Ben Webster (some *mean* tenor sax), Shelly Mann (drums), Andre Previn (piano), the tragic Frank Rosolino (trombone), Barney Kessel (guitar-virtuosity personified), Leroy Vinnegar (bass) Jimmy Rowles (piano on a single track) and, of course, main man Benny Carter on alto sax and trumpet (but never in the same piece). Individually and collectively these are some bad cats. And this disc is flush with creative arrangements that abundantly illuminates their respective instruments and talents both as soloists and as a band. I have found that a combo of this size and mix has a lot more creative upside potential than, say, a comparably talented trio or quartet.

When I purchased this disc a couple of years ago I had no recollection of ever hearing it or hearing about it, so I thought. But when I first played it I said to myself this really sounds familiar. And when I got to track 3 “A Walkin’ Thing” I said “deju vue all over again”. I definitely heard this around the house as a kid. And while I love all the performances on this disc it's “A Walkin’ Thing” that is my favorite, for the memories to be sure, but also because of its bluesy rhythmic tenor and its combination feel of Mingus and Ellington. But also, this piece penned by Carter, is where all the musicians, as a group and as soloists most get to strut their stuff.

And there is another association with this disc, albeit less direct, with respect to guitarist Kessel. My mother who is in no way a jazz fan but is, nonetheless, very familiar with Kessel. She was raised in a little town in Oklahoma called Fort Gibson. Kessel grew up 8 miles down the road in the "big city", Muskogee. Even in the 40s Kessel was well known and appreciated among both black and white audiences in the jazz and blues world where he would “integrate” an otherwise all black band on stage; quite an anomaly for Oklahoma (or America) during that time. Kessell’s virtuosity is on display throughout this disc.

Of course, Benny Carter is superb on alto sax, but also for two cuts, on trumpet. His trumpet playing in “I’m Coming Virginia” is particularly noteworthy. It is also on this same piece where Ben Webster plays, as he does on the 5 tracks he appears, some *serious* tenor sax. Previn seems quite inventive on the 6 (of 7) tracks that he is on piano. Rowles on piano is only heard in “A Walkin’ Thing”, but I think he was definitely the man for the job for my favorite piece. I also very much enjoyed the trombone performances of Rosolino whenever he was called upon, but especially in “A Walkin Thing”. And it is here, too, where you can most visualize Vinnegar "walkin’" the bass line.

The sound on this disc is extremely fine and detailed. I have only moderate experience with jazz recordings (I attend many live) but based on the opinion of "certified" jazz hounds I suspect you will be hard pressed to find a recording that better captures the reedy flavor and experience of Webster’s tenor. I played several cuts for an audiophile friend of mine who is a part time host on a local jazz radio station. (He hosts an annual all weekend Duke Ellington fest). He is very familiar with “Jazz Giant” and owns several versions on LP and CD. He said of the SACD, “I’ve never heard it like this before”. Translation: this SACD betters any CD or LP that he has heard.

But the source of this disc dates back to the dawn of stereo, 1957 and 1958, and as good as the “sound” is the “sound stage” presentation leaves much to be desired. It shouts “play me in mono” and the the extreme left/right engineering makes me reach for the mono button (that I don't have) on my line stage. (This is akin to some early or poorly done multi-channel discs that one may prefer to hear in two-channel). So, while it takes nothing away from the performances it does blemish the otherwise magnificent sound, but not so much as to take from the frequent enjoyment of this wonderful disc.

Robert C. Lang

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Review by lenw April 2, 2007 (3 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Contemporary Records Benny Carter "Jazz Giant" demonstrates how the original recording technique and mixing play the biggest role in audio listening. This SACD sounds lush and detailed with great imaging, dynamic range, and resolution. The only slightly disconcerting thing is the extreme left/right placement of musical instruments with the bass holding the center position. But this is a very enjoyable 39 minutes of great jazz I consider this a real find.

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Review by Claude March 18, 2007 (2 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
"Jazz giant" is a relaxed and enjoyable all-star session, which has always been an audiophile classic.

This is sonically a rather disappointing SACD, especially since Fantasy chose a great sounding recording by the legendary Contemporary engineer Roy DuNann for this release. Many other Fantasy SACDs feature inferior recordings or degraded tapes. The remastering by Joe Tarantino favors the treble and makes the instruments lack body and warmth. I don't have any other version of this album to compare to, but the 20+ CD or SACD editions of other recordings engineered by Roy DuNann sound more natural and realistic.

So, while the result can be qualified as decent and listenable, it is also a missed opportunity given the potential of the recording and the format.

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