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Benny Carter, 95; Legendary Saxophonist Also Was Composer-Arranger, Bandleader

July 14, 2003|Jon Thurber | Times Staff Writer

That same year he completed another major commission called "Echoes of San Juan Hill," about the area of New York City where he was raised and where Lincoln Center now stands. Carter was 89 when he introduced this work and was the featured soloist with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra under Wynton Marsalis.

Throughout his life, the soft-spoken Carter was an elegant man with eclectic tastes and a definite style.

Berger recalled Sunday that Carter was a voracious reader who was passionate about language and had a brilliant understanding of English usage. He also collected art and became an excellent cook. Beginning in the 1970s, he conducted seminars and workshops at Harvard, Princeton and a number of other colleges around the country.

Carter received a variety of awards. In 1987, he was given a lifetime achievement award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which in many careers marks the culmination of an artist's efforts. However, Carter was nominated for seven more Grammy Awards in the 1990s, and won two.

In 1996, he received the Kennedy Center Honors for an extraordinary lifetime of contributions to American culture through the performing arts.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday July 15, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 25 words Type of Material: Correction
Benny Carter photo -- The photo accompanying the obituary of Benny Carter was incorrectly credited to Associated Press. It was from the New York Times.

Jazz critic Don Heckman, who reviewed what were Carter's last public appearances as a player at Catalina Bar & Grill in March 1998, when Carter was 90, wrote later that he was "amazed at the quality of his playing."

"There was, first of all, his sheer ability to execute the mechanical aspects of playing the alto saxophone, which require a complex combination of lip, teeth and mouth control, synchronized with precise finger movements, driven by a constant flow of breath.... Carter still delivered the same cooly expressive tone and subtle sense of swing that have always been distinctive elements of his playing."

After that final appearance at Catalina, when friends asked when he would play again, he told them: "I'm retired!"

Carter is survived by his wife of 24 years, Hilma; a daughter from an earlier marriage, Joyce Mills; one grandchild and one great-grandchild.

Funeral services will be private, although public memorial services may be planned.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that any memorial donations be sent to the Morroe Berger-Benny Carter Jazz Research Fund at the Institute of Jazz Studies, Dana Library, Rutgers University, Newark, N.J. 07102.

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