Jazz CD Reviews

Mel Martin/Benny Carter Quintet – Just Friends – Jazzed Media

A welcome reprise of more Mel Martin and the master, Benny Carter

Published on July 16, 2007

Mel Martin/Benny Carter Quintet – Just Friends –  Jazzed Media
Mel Martin/Benny Carter Quintet – Just Friends -  Jazzed Media JM 1025, 62:53 (1994) *****:

(Mel Martin, tenor sax and flute; Benny Carter, alto sax; Roger Kellaway, piano; Jeff Chambers, bass; Harold Jones, drums)

A big Thank You has to go out to Jazzed Media’s Graham Carter for finding more session material from Mel Martin and Benny Carter’s live 1994 sessions at the SF Bay Area’s premiere jazz club, Yoshi’s. That 1994 meeting was documented in an Enja 1994 release, Mel Martin Plays Benny Carter. In honor of the centennial celebration of Benny Carter in 2007, we have the good fortune of having more tracks from the Yoshi’s concerts brought to us a jazz public service by Jazzed Media, who once again keep their impeccable streak of brilliant releases by our jazz masters alive. Martin has been a Carter devotee for years and since Carter passed away in 2003, Mel has kept Carter’s flame lit. It is hard to believe that Carter was 87 when these tracks were recorded.

The proceedings get off to a roaring start with Juan Tizol’s Perdido. Martin has a blistering solo and Benny shows he was still on his game. You can count on one hand anyone who still had their tone and swing like Carter did at age 87. Kellaway is a perfect complement to the two reedmen and has a swinging solo with great blues feel.

After Perdido, each track is at least ten minutes long and the musicians really have room to stretch out with their solos. Martin’s ethereal solo flute highlights People Time with great comping by Kellaway. You could imagine Benny soaking in Mel’s interpretation like a proud father. Secret Love blends Martin and Carter and their respect for each other is brought out in full force.

Spritely features Mel with the trio only and Chambers and Kellaway are given room to shine. One of my all time favorite Carter compositions – Elegy in Blue – follows, and again, the two horns blend as one. Carter gets full solo time and his mournful melody, written as a tribute to a close Japanese friend’s passing, is moving. Our re-visit with Mel, Benny and company ends with Just Friends, and you can feel the love and empathy between the master and Bebop and Beyond’s group leader, Mel Martin. If you own the Enja Martin/Carter ’94 release, this new addition to that session is a “must have” and a Carter Centennial requirement purchase. Let’s just be a bit greedy and hope that there is more unreleased Benny Carter material out there. Graham, the next move is yours.

TrackList: Perdido, People Time, Secret Love, Spritely, Elegy in Blue, Just Friends

- Jeff Krow




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