Thursday, April 01, 2010
Harry Carney Centennial Celebration (1/5)
Harry Carney, the great anchor of many a fine Ellington sax section, would have been 100 years old today, April 1, 2010.
Carney was born in Boston, MA, on April 1, 1910. As a teenager, he started playing with Duke Ellington's orchestra in 1927 and participating in a first recording session on October 6 of that year. Carney started out playing alto sax and clarinet with Duke. The clarinet would stay in his bag for all those years, he did section work here and there and did his patented solo on "Rockin' in Rhythm" on the licorice stick as well. He later also added the bass clarinet to his roster.
Carney was one of the most important and longest standing members in Ellington's band - other than Johnny Hodges, Cootie Williams, and other important Ellingtonians, he never left the orchestra and played with Duke up to his death in New York, on October 8, 1974 (the Duke himself had died the same year, on May 24).
Nowadays, with a bunch of well-known modern baritone sax players, Carney is unjustly forgotten, yet he may well still be the greatest baritone sax player in jazz. He was firmly based on Coleman Hawkins' innovations on the tenor sax, playing with a robust, huge sound. Carney was also a terrific balladeer.
This is the first of a five-part compilation of Carney's music, the other four will be posted in the next few days. The aim is to present Carney mostly in sideman appearances of various small groups, including the few sessions he led on his own. Ellington is mostly absent here, but of course a lot of the music is very Ellingtonian in mood, and many of the sidemen were Ellingtonians, including Johnny Hodges (who will be featured heavily on later volumes), Billy Strayhorn, Louis Bellson, Lawrence Brown, Cootie Williams, Jimmy Hamilton, Otto Hardwick, or Rex Stewart, but you'll also hear Coleman Hawkins, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Jones, Joe Thomas, Shelly Manne, Sandy Williams, Wardell Gray, Willie Smith, John Graas, Don Byas, Johnny Guarnieri, Charlie Ventura, Lester Young, and many others.
And of course you'll hear "Harry Carney with Strings", and his two features from Norman Granz' "The Jazz Scene", as well as a short Ellington rarity: a recording with Max Roach on the drums!
Hope you will enjoy, and hope many will (re-)discover what a terrific musician Harry Carney was!