Benny Carter – Swingin’ the ’20s

More Benny Carter

More Shelly Manne

More Swingin’ the ’20s


  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning side two and a Double Plus (A++) side one, this copy took top honors in our recent shootout
  • These good sides are so much bigger and more open, with more bass and energy – the saxes and trumpets are immediate and lively
  • Mr. Earl Hines himself showed up, a man who knows this music like nobody’s business – Leroy Vinnegar and Shelly Manne round out the quartet
  • “Great musicians produce great results, and most of the LP’s tracks were done in one or two takes. The result is ‘a spontaneous, swinging record of what happened’ when Carter met Hines ‘for the first time. . . .'”

We finally built up enough copies of this great album to do a shootout, our first since 2012, which ought to tell you something about the used record market these days. This copy had most of the Tubey Magic of the originals we played, with all of the amazing clarity and freedom from distortion the later pressings are capable of reproducing — the best of both worlds.

Our Yellow Label Contemporary pressing in stereo of Benny Carter’s swingin’ jazz quartet is the very definition of a top jazz recording from the late ’50s mastered through a modern, very high quality cutting chain. There’s good extension on the top end, with TONS of what you might not expect: Tubey Magic and Richness. If that’s what you’re looking for, this copy has got it!

This Contemporary reissue from the ’70s, pre-OJC, is spacious, open, transparent, rich and sweet. Roy DuNann was the engineer for these sessions from 1958 in Contemporary’s glorious sounding studios. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology, with the added benefit of mastering using the more modern cutting equipment of the ’70s. (We are of course here referring to the good modern mastering of 30+ years ago, not the bad modern mastering of today.)

The combination of old and new works wonders on this title as you will surely hear for yourself on both of these amazing sides.

We were impressed with the fact that this copy excelled in so many areas of reproduction. The illusion of disappearing speakers is one of the more attractive aspects of the sound here, pulling the listener into the space of the studio in an especially engrossing way.

What was odd about it — odd to most audiophiles but not necessarily to us — was how rich and Tubey Magical the reissue can be.

This leads me to think that most of the natural, full-bodied, smooth, sweet sound of the album is on the tape, and that all one has to do to get that vintage sound on to a record is simply to thread up the tape on a good machine and hit play.

The fact that nobody seems to be able to make a good sounding record these days tells me that in fact I’m wrong to think that such an approach would work. It just seems to me that somebody should be able to figure out how to do it. In our experience that is simply not the case today, and has not been for many years.

Muted Trumpet

The sound of the muted trumpet on side two is out of this world! It’s exactly the sonic signature of good tube equipment — making some elements of a recording sound shockingly real.

The trumpet is also a very good test for turntable setup, tracking, as well as arm and cartridge compatibility. You’ve got to be set up properly for every aspect for a difficult-to-reproduce instrument like the trumpet to sound right.

c Benny, by the way, plays both sax and trumpet on this album. I saw him a while back when he was touring at the age of 90 years old. And he still had it.

Skip the OJC

This album is fairly common on the OJC pressing from 1988, but we found the sound of the OJC pressings we played seriously wanting. They have the kind of bad reissue sound that that plays right into the prejudices of most record collectors and audiophiles for whom nothing but an original will do. They were dramatically smaller, flatter, more recessed and more lifeless than even the worst of the ’70s LPs we played.

The lesson? Not all reissues are created equal. Some OJC pressings are great — including even some of the new ones — some are awful, and the only way to judge them fairly is to judge them individually, which requires actually playing a large sample. Since virtually no record collectors or audiophiles like doing that, they make faulty judgments based on their biases and inadequate sample sizes.

You can find those who subscribe to this approach on every audiophile forum there is. Their methods do not produce good results, but as long as they stick to them they will never have to worry about finding out about that inconvenient truth.


This is one of the all time great Contemporary recordings. DCC was going to do this on CD at one time; I loaned Steve Hoffman an OJC LP back in the ’90s which he promptly fell in love with. Unfortunately DCC went out of business, and Acoustic Sounds, the people doing the new jazz reissue series on 45 RPM heavy vinyl, wouldn’t recognize a great title like this if it bit them in the ass.

And if they did it their version wouldn’t sound good anyway — none of their stuff ever does.

The Players and Personnel

Alto Saxophone, Trumpet – Benny Carter 
Bass – Leroy Vinnegar 
Drums – Shelly Manne 
Piano – Earl Hines

Producer – Lester Koenig 
Recorded By – Roy DuNann


Side One

Thou Swell 
My Blue Heaven 
Just Imagine 
If I Could Be with You (One Hour Tonight) 
Sweet Lorraine 
Who’s Sorry Now?

Side Two

Laugh, Clown, Laugh 
All Alone 
Mary Lou 
In a Little Spanish Town 
Someone to Watch over Me 
A Monday Date

Concord Music Group Notes

Some things never change. When this CD was released in 1988, Benny Carter was as active as when this album was recorded 30 years earlier. And the eleven standards herein are as fresh as when they were written in the Twenties. Benny is joined by Earl Hines (whose great 1928 composition “A Monday Date” is included here), along with Shelly Manne and bassist Leroy Vinnegar of “Friends” fame. Great musicians produce great results, and most of the LP’s tracks were done in one or two takes. The result is “a spontaneous, swinging record of what happened” when Carter met Hines “for the first time. . . .”