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Jazz Great Benny Carter Centennial Gala With Reception And Concert

JCC in Sherman Honors

2007 marks the centennial year of the late jazz icon Benny Carter. The JCC in Sherman, in cooperation with Carter’s widow, Hilma, will kick off this milestone anniversary with a gala cocktail reception and a performance of Carter’s music on Saturday, June 30th at the JCC in Sherman.

The evening begins at 7:15 p.m. with a reception and cocktail hour that will include a photography display from a collection entitled “Just A Mood” by Edward Berger, Benny Carter’s friend and biographer. The collection includes many photographs from Benny Carter’s long career as well as images of other jazz greats. There will also be a showing of film clips from a documentary about Carter entitled “Symphony in Riffs.” This photo exhibit will move to the Sherman library for the month of July.

At 8:00 p.m., music begins with The Benny Carter Trio. The group includes his long-time performing partner pianist Chris Neville, drummer Steve Johns and Steve LaSpina on bass. The trio is the last working group Benny played with and they continue to travel around the world carrying on Carter’s legacy. They will be a part of the Carter’s 100th anniversary celebration taking place in August at the Hollywood Bowl in California.

Mr. Carter, best known as an alto saxophonist, also received recognition for his own successful orchestra, whose recordings are considered the milestones in early swing arranging. He created compositions for such big band legends as Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington and wrote two major hits “Blues in My Heart” and “When Lights Are Low.” Duke Ellington once said “the problem of expressing the contributions that Benny Carter has made to popular music is so tremendous it completely fazes me, so extraordinary a musician he is.”

Benny Carter was also one of the first black musicians to penetrate the Hollywood studios and received accolades for his work as instrumentalist, arranger and composer for films such as “Stormy Weather,”; “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,”; and “An American in Paris.” According to composer and producer Quincy Jones, “Benny opened the eyes of a lot of producers and studios, so that they could understand that you could go to blacks for other things outside blues and barbeque.”

Called “The King” by his contemporaries and friends, Carter wrote for and recorded with legends such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, Mel Torme and Tony Bennett.

Among Carter’s many awards are a Lifetime Grammy, The Kennedy Center Honor for Lifetime Achievement, the National Medal of Arts, the designation by Congress as a “National Treasure of Jazz” and honorary doctorates from Harvard, Princeton, Rutgers’s and the New England Conservatory of Music.

Hilma Carter has been a resident of Sherman since 1955 and a long time member of the JCCS.

Admission for the reception is $30 for members and $35 for nonmembers. Admission for the concert only is $20 for members and $25 for nonmembers. A collection of CD’s will be on sale during the event. A portion of the proceeds from the evening will be donated to the Institute for Jazz Studies at Rutgers’s University, where Benny carter established a fund to continue the growth and education for jazz musicians for the future.

The JCCS is also offering a patronage program for this event. Patrons are invited to join Benny Carter’s “band” as a composer ($140 = 2 free tickets with donation), saxophonist ($75 = 1 free ticket with donation), or trumpet player ($25 donation).

For more information or to make a reservation, please contact the JCC in Sherman at 860-355-8050 or e-mail

This event is open to the public and all are welcome.

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