BBC News Online looks back at the life and career or jazz legend Benny Carter.
Carter paved the way for many black musicians in Hollywood
Benny Carter was more than a master of melodic invention on the alto saxophone and a virtuoso trumpet player
His originality and improvisation helped to launch the golden age of big band
jazz in the 1930s.
A renowned composer, instrumentalist, orchestra leader and
arranger, Carter's work for movies and later TV opened doors for many black musicians and composers.
His compositions, such as When Lights Are Low (1936) and Blues in My Heart (1931), became jazz and
big band standards.
Many saxophone and trumpet players
continue to measure their work against his solos.
In his lengthy career he
performed with or wrote music for nearly all of jazz's
early greats, including Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Duke
Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie.
Louis Armstrong once said of him: "You got Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and my man, the
Earl of Hines, right? Well, Benny's right up there with all
them cats. Everybody that knows who he is calls him 'king'. He is a king."
Born Bennett Lester Carter in New York City in 1907, he took piano lessons from his mother when he was 10 years old and later studied with a private teacher.
He picked up the trumpet aged 14, but after failing to master it in a week he traded it for a saxophone.
In 2000 Carter received an arts medal from President Clinton
A year later he was proficient on both instruments, and by 15 he had become a regular at Harlem night clubs.
In 1928 Carter made his recording and arranging debut as
a member of the Charlie Johnson Orchestra.
With no formal
music education, he taught himself to arrange two of the orchestra's recordings. He later joined Fletcher Henderson's orchestra - in which he also assumed arrangement duties.
Carter expanded his duties to include composing, and in 1932 put together his own orchestra. The band struggled financially and disbanded in 1934.
But his reputation as an arranger had grown and in 1942 he reorganised his band, which included bebop
pioneers Gillespie and Kenny Clarke and, later, modernist
He disbanded it in 1946 in part because of his
growing Hollywood career.
In 1943 Carter arranged music for Stormy Weather, an all black musical, and in 1944 he appeared in MGM's
Thousands Cheer with Lena Horne.
He went on to arrange
music for An American in Paris, (1951), The Guns of
Navarone (1961), and Busby Berkeley's The Gang's All
He later composed and arranged music for 20 TV series, including M Squad, (1957-60), Ironside
(1967-75), The Name of the Game (1968-71), and It Takes
a Thief (1968-70).
Carter was given a lifetime achievement Grammy in 1987
His success as one of the first black musicians to break
into the lucrative film scoring market and, eventually to
be credited for his work, opened the door for others.
also succeeded in using his influence to push successfully
to desegregate the Musicians' Union's white and black
While Carter continued to arrange and compose music, he
stopped touring in the 1950s and 1960s and began to fade in
the jazz scene.
In 1969, approached by a sociologist who
felt he was not receiving recognition as one of the
great contributors to jazz, Carter began lecturing at
In 1976 he returned to performing live at Michael's Pub
in New York and later that year recorded The King, which featured duets with Gillespie.
Carter's compositions have become jazz standards
"I don't look back at the good old days. The good old
days are here and now," he once said.
Carter was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
in 1987 and the congressional designation as a National
Treasure of Jazz in 1988.
In 2000 he was presented with
the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton.
His friend, the producer Quincy Jones, said after visiting him in hospital that
he believed Carter had simply decided it was time to go.
"He said he had lived, for 95 years, the greatest life he
could ask for, and he wanted to leave us like he lived with
us, which was in such dignity."