Audiotapes, CDs and digital files: an ongoing project to interview and preserve the memories of people important in the jazz world, including jazz musicians, singers, dancers, producers, arrangers, and others. A list of interviewees and interviewers follows.
The following is a list of the individuals who conducted the interviews.
1. Brown, Anthony
2. Baker, Lida
3. Burstein, Julie
2. Bluiett, Hamiet
This collection is arranged into six series.
Series 1, DAT and CD Original Interview Recordings, 1992-2012
Series 2, Cassette Reference and Master Interview Tapes, 1992-2012
Series 3, Audio CD Reference Copies, 2000-2012
Series 4, Video/CD, 1994-2012
Series 5, Transcripts and Abstracts, 1992-2014
Series 6, Supplemental Documentation, 1992-2012
Biographical / Historical:
The Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program, a project of "America's Jazz Heritage, A Partnership of the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund and the Smithsonian Institution" initiative was created in 1992. More than 150 in-depth oral history interviews were conducted from 1992 through 2002. The collection was transferred to the Archives Center of the National Museum of American History in 2000. Now part of the National Museum of American History's American Music History Initiatives, the Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program continues to conduct interviews as funding is available.
The Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program was established to document significant jazz musicians, performers, producers, and business associates in their own words and voices. Program staff contacted and worked with potential interviewees to arrange for interviews. Each interview was conducted by a jazz authority and was recorded on digital audiotape by a professional audio engineer. The interviews averaged 6 hours in length and covered a wide range of topics including early years, initial involvement in music, generally, and jazz specifically, as well as experiences in the jazz music world, including relationships to musicians. The original DAT interview tapes were then dubbed to audiocassettes and CD to create protection and access copies. More recent interviews have been recorded using fully digital technology and the interviews are preserved and made availbel as digital files.
A number of the interviews were conducted as part of the Ella Fitzgerald Oral History Project of the Jazz Oral History Program. Funded by the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, these interviews focus on the life and work of Ella Fitzgerald. The National Endowments for the Arts Jazz Masters Oral Histories Program continues to support new interviews with NEA Jazz Masters.
For more information about jazz concerts, education, collections, Jazz Appreciation Month, and the Jazz Master orchestra, visit Smithsonian Jazz.
The interviews were made for the Smithsonian Institution under the auspices of the Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program supported by America's Jazz Heritage, funded by the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, the Smithsonian Institution, and the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Oral Histories Program. Additional interviews were conducted with support from the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation.
Collection is open for research. Researchers must use reference copies.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions. Release forms exist for most interviews.
[Interviewee name] Interview, Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program Collection, 1992-2014, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
The interviews were made for the Smithsonian Institution under the auspices of the Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program and supported by America's Jazz Heritage, funded by the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, the Smithsonian Institution, and the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Oral Histories Program. Additional interviews were conducted with support from the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation.
The majority of the material in the Benny Carter Collection is dated from the late 1920s through the later half of the 1990s. Donated to the Smithsonian Institution in December, 2000, the bulk of the collection is comprised of original music manuscripts (full scores and parts), band books, and published sheet music from Benny Carter's prolific career as a jazz composer and musician. The collection also contains newspaper clippings, correspondence, photographs, scrapbooks, awards, posters, commercial sound recordings, a few jazz related journals and some personal ephemera documenting Benny Carter's personal life and career as a composer, arranger, bandleader, trumpeter and alto saxophonist.
The collection is organized into six series
Series 1: Music Manuscripts, 1928-1990s
Series 2: Newspaper Clippings and Magazine Clippings, 1928-2000
Series 3: Photographs, 1928-1998
Series 4: Awards and Proclamations, 1961-1999
Series 5: Sound Recordings, 1958-1989
Series 6: Ephemera, 1952-2000
Series 7: 2004 Photographs Addenda
Series 8: 2004 Ephemera Addenda
Series 9: 2004 Magazine and Newsclippings Addenda
Series 10: 2004 Awards and Proclamations Addenda
Bennett Lester Carter, better known as "Benny," was born on August 8, 1907 in New York City. The Carter's were quite a musical family - - Benny's father played guitar, his mother played piano, and a cousin, Theodore ("Cuban") Bennett, played the trumpet professionally - - so it was no surprise that Benny also became a musician, beginning his musical training at the age of ten. He first played the trumpet and then C-melody saxophone before changing to alto saxophone, which became his chief instrument.
Benny Carter began his professional career around the young age of seventeen, when he joined a local group as an alto saxophonist. He subsequently played with various other groups, including Billy Paige and Louis Deppe, until attending Wilberforce College in Ohio to study seminary in 1925. Finding music more enticing than theology, Carter left college and instead toured with Horace Henderson's Wilberforce Collegians intermittently between 1925 and 1928.
Carter's musical talents began attracting widespread attention in 1930 during a year-long stint with Fletcher Henderson's orchestra, to which he contributed many important arrangements. As word of his talent continued to spread, Carter played with such notables as William "Chick" Webb (1931) and served as musical director of William McKinney's Cotton Pickers (1931-1932) in Detroit. Upon returning to New York in 1932, Carter formed his own highly-respected orchestra. In its two years of existence, the Benny Carter Orchestra included several major pioneers in early swing style, such as Bill Coleman, Dicky Wells, Ben Webster, Chu Berry, Teddy Wilson, and Sid Catlett. Months after playing the inaugural show in New York City at Harlem's Apollo Theater in 1934, Carter disbanded the orchestra and, one year later, sailed to Europe to spread jazz across the globe.
After arriving in Europe, Carter first performed with Willie Lewis in Paris, France, and then, during 1936 -1938, served as staff arranger for the BBC Dance Orchestra in London, England. As he continued to tour throughout his stay in Europe (even leading his own interracial band in the Netherlands in 1937), he met with even greater success than in the United States. By this point, Carter was well-known for his arrangements and for his alto saxophone and clarinet playing. He was also recognized for his talented singing and tenor saxophone, trumpet, and piano playing.
In 1938, Carter sailed back to the United States and formed a new orchestra which regularly played at Harlem's Savoy Theater until 1940. He toured the United States during the next few years, both with small groups and with his big band, finally settling in Los Angeles in 1945. There he continued to lead his band (band members included modern jazz greats such as Miles Davis and J. J. Johnson), but turned increasingly to writing and arranging music for films and television productions. His film scores include Stormy Weather (1943), A Man Called Adam (1966), Red Sky at Morning(1970), and Buck and the Preacher (1972). "Ironside," "Bob Hope Presents," and the Alfred Hitchcock show were among the television programs for which he wrote music.
Carter had stopped performing with a regular orchestra by 1946, but he remained active up through the 1960s both by playing at Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic shows and with Duke Ellington, among others. He also continued to arrange music for various singers, including Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Peggy Lee, and Louis Armstrong. During the 1970s he began performing again, touring in Europe, Asia and Australia; in 1976 he toured the Middle East under sponsorship of the U.S. Department of State. Carter also became involved with academia, serving as visiting professor or workshop consultant at universities such as Yale, Cornell, Princeton, and Duke. He remained active in the music business well into the 1990s and still resides in California.
Benny Carter is regarded as "one of the most versatile musicians of his time." As a musician, he made major contributions to several areas of jazz and, as an arranger, he helped to construct the big-band swing style. He has received many awards throughout his career. The more prestigious honors included a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and a 1994 Grammy Award for the album "Elegy in Blue."
[1 ] Biographical note derived from Benny Carter: A Life in American Music, by Monroe and Edward Berger, and James Patrick (New York: Scarecrow Press and the Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University, 1982).
 J. Bradford Robinson, "John Kirby," The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, vol 1, 1986: 653-54.
The Benny Carter Collection was donated by Bennett Carter in December 2000.
This series consists of eighteen LPs, three multi-disc sets and fourteen 45rpm (four of which are duplicates) recordings of Benny Carter's music. The recorded material includes Carter=s music from the 1940s to the 1980s. It also documents the jazz greats, such as Dizzy Gillespie, Red Norvo and Nat Adderly, with whom Carter recorded. They include commercially available recordings and compilations, as well as recordings that were not produced for commercial publication (e.g., the 1973 rough-dub copy of Satin Latin). Arranged Alphabetically by title. Finding aid notes date, record label and format of recording.
Access to original recordings is restricted.
Reproduction restricted due to copyright.
Benny Carter Collection, 1928-2000, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.