“Takin’ My Time” (1940) Benny Carter with Sidney De Paris

“Takin’ My Time”

Composed and arranged by Benny Carter.

Recorded by Benny Carter and His Orchestra for RCA Bluebird on November 19, 1940 in New York.

Benny Carter, alto saxophone, directing: Russell “Pop” Smith, first trumpet; Bobby Williams and Sidney De Paris, trumpets; Benny Morton, Madison Vaughan and Milton Robinson, trombones; Chauncey Haughton and George James, alto saxophones (James doubles on baritone); George Irish and Stafford Simon, tenor saxophones; Sonny White, piano; Everett Barksdale, guitar; Hayes Alvis, bass; Keg Purnell, drums.

The story:

For a summary of Benny Carter’s long and illustrious career, go to endnote (1) which is a link to another post here at swingandbeyond.com, that presents that summary along with some marvelous Carter music.

Benny Carter was one of the preeminent alto saxophonists of the swing era. He occupied the rarefied stratum of jazz saxophonists with his fellow alto players, Johnny Hodges and Willie Smith, as well as tenor saxophonists Coleman Hawkins, Chu Berry, Ben Webster and Lester Young. But Carter was always more than a virtuoso jazz saxophonist. From his earliest career, he was also an arranger, a composer, and a talented performer on trumpet. He was also a bandleader, because his great talent as an all-around musician, and the dignity and strength he always exuded, rightly suggested to everyone who knew him that he was a natural for that role. Musicians were always happy to work in his bands because they respected him as a musician and as a man, and knew they would be playing good music with him.

In the late 1920s, Carter was a member of a group of musicians that were often employed by Fletcher Henderson, who led one of the best bands of that time. But he also matriculated through various other Afro-American bands that were sometimes identified by racist names that were accepted as the norm in the U.S. in the late 1920s and into the 1930s. These bands included: The Little Chocolate Dandies, or later just The Chocolate Dandies, McKinney’s Cotton-Pickers, as well as other bands that bore names like Mills Blue Rhythm Band, and bands led by musicians whose names gradually became recognized by the public, including Chick Webb, and Fletcher Henderson’s younger brother, Horace Henderson.

It appears that Benny Carter made his first recording as a leader on June 23, 1932, when he was twenty-five years old. Although Carter would make a number of recordings as a leader in the years that followed, he nevertheless continued working as a free-lance in New York, appearing on a wide variety of recordings. Also, like his saxophone-playing colleague, Coleman Hawkins, he took a hegira to Europe, starting in 1936, making recordings with various musicians and bands in Paris, London, The Netherlands, Copenhagen, and Stockholm. Carter returned to the United States in early May of 1938. (Above left: Benny Carter on a train arriving in Copenhagen, Denmark – 1936, being greeted by his fans. The woman with him is Inez Gray, whom he married in 1938. Regrettably, his receptions in his home country were generally far less enthusiastic. See post script below.)

Benny Carter in London – April 15, 1936 in the Decca recording studio there. Among the musicians pictured: trombonist and future bandleader Ted Heath (fifth from right).

The music:

“Takin’ My Time” is a simple but effective vehicle for Benny Carter’s elegant alto saxophone stylings, and the gentle swing of the Carter band. It was plainly aimed at the feet of the dancers for whom this band most often played.

After a brief and bright introduction, the melody is established with the unison saxophones and cup-muted trumpets in a charming musical dialogue. The trombone trio takes the eight bar bridge then the reeds and trumpets return to finish the first chorus.

The second chorus is a showcase for Carter’s alto saxophone improvisation. In addition to Carter’s trademark gleaming sound, we hear him exploring this tune’s harmonies in a most interesting and provocative fashion, and he swings. (Above right: Benny Carter in the late 1930s.)

After Carter’s solo, the band perks up for some bright and warm open trumpet riffs (led by Russell Smith on first trumpet, a Carter colleague off-and-on since 1928, when they met in Fletcher Henderson’s band), and a delightful eight bar trumpet solo by Sidney De Paris. It shows that Mr. De Paris and Wilbur “Dud” Bascomb from Erskine Hawkins’s band, had a lot in common in their approach to playing, including a bright, tart trumpet sound, good swing, and a lot of soul. (Sidney De Paris met Carter is 1927 when they were both members of the band called Charlie Johnson’s Paradise Ten, which played some of Carter’s earliest arrangements.) (Above left: Sidney De Paris.)

Post script: In the late 1970s and through the early 1980s, one of my favorite venues in Manhattan to hear good music was Michael’s Pub, 211 East 55th Street. That club was such a congenial one for performances that many live recordings later issued on LP and CD were made there. I saw and heard a number of excellent musicians and singers there over a period of about ten years. I planned on going there one night to hear Benny Carter, but for a reason I cannot now recall, did not make it to the club until the small band Carter was leading was playing its last tune. Shortly after that, Mr. Carter packed up his alto saxophone and trumpet, and walked out of the club alone. I followed him out onto the sidewalk and caught up with him. I said to him that I always enjoyed his music, etc., words I’m sure he had heard many times before. He stopped for a moment, looked at me, smiled and said: “Thank you. I always appreciate it when someone takes the time to express their appreciation of my music.” He then turned and got into a car that had drawn up to the curb to pick him up. (At right: Benny Carter in 1971. The guitarist is Mundell Lowe.)

The recording presented with this post was digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.

Notes and links: 

(1) Here is a link to a summary of Benny Carter’s career, which also presents one of his most lovely compositions, the haunting “Malibu”: https://swingandbeyond.com/2018/11/03/malibu-1945-benny-carter-glen-gray-with-skeets-herfurt-1958/

Here is a link to another fine Benny Carter performance: https://swingandbeyond.com/2020/10/31/poinciana-1943-benny-carter-frank-comstock-1970-billy-may-les-robinson/

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2 Comments

  1. Hi, Mike–
    As always, I’ve been enjoying your posts. Great stuff! I continue to be in awe of the amount of research you do for each post. I’ve learned a great deal about many recordings, and musicians.
    I’m proud that I had the opportunity to play with Benny Carter. We performed (with Sweets Edison, Hank Jones, and a few others of that caliber) in the early 1990s for the late Dick Gibson at the old Paramount Theater in downtown Denver, Colorado. Benny–indeed all of the guys–were very kind and welcoming to me, the “new kid on the block.”
    Regarding “Takin’ My Time,” I’d encourage your readers to give a listen to Fletcher Henderson’s great 1936 recording of “Blue Lou.” Toward the end of that record, the band plays a riff that repeats the same “lick” which Carter uses for his own interesting composition.
    It may have been Carter’s subliminal recollection of that record. Or, maybe it was a subtle tribute to his earlier employer, Fletcher Henderson.

    It’s the same lick, though!

    Looking forward to your next post.

    All the best,

    –Dan Barrett.

  2. Dan, thanks for your comments. I think someone once said about Benny Carter, “he has ears like a vacuum cleaner.” So do you! Bravo!

    Fletcher Henderson’s recording of “Blue Lou” is a great one indeed. Many lessons in swing can be taken from it.

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