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IJS digitizes Benny Carter and Benny Goodman recordings

The Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies (IJS) has completed a two-year, $296,000 project, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to digitize two of its most important collections of sound recordings: the Benny Carter and Benny Goodman Collections.

The project has enabled IJS, a unit of Rutgers University's John Cotton Dana Library, and the world's largest jazz archive, to make these rare collections available to researchers. Carter's and Goodman's careers intersected many other important figures, and traversed many varied areas of American culture, including race relations, the film industry, the recording studios, radio and television, the academy, and international diplomacy, so the collections will serve as primary source material for a wide range of specialists in many fields.

Benny Carter was one of jazz's most important and multifaceted talents. As a soloist, he was a model for swing era alto saxophonists and was nearly unique in his ability to double on trumpet, which he played in an equally distinctive style. As an arranger, he helped chart the course of big band jazz, and his compositions, such as "When Lights Are Low" and "Blues in My Heart," are jazz standards. Among his many awards and honors were three Grammys, the National Medal of Arts, an NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship, and the Kennedy Center Honors.. Beyond jazz, Carter also made major musical contributions to the world of film and television as one of the first African American arrangers/composers to penetrate the Hollywood studios, and served as a guiding force in the integration of the separate black and white musicians' unions in Los Angeles.

The Carter Collection comprises Carter's personal archive and contains recordings of many unique performances, interviews, and other events in Carter's professional life. Carter himself donated many of these materials to the Institute; his wife, Hilma, gave the remainder shortly after Carter's death in 2003 at age 95.

Carter was a strong supporter of IJS, and in 1987, he created an endowment to support jazz researchers, funding projects by more than 70 Rutgers graduate students and other scholars.

Benny Goodman (1909-1986) was the symbol of the Swing Era, when jazz for a time occupied a unique position as both high art and as America's popular music. Goodman was a clarinet virtuoso, proficient in classical music as well as jazz, and a bandleader whose orchestras helped spread big band jazz around the world. He also made a major contribution to civil rights by hiring black musicians Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton to perform with him in the mid-1930s. A musical perfectionist, he set the highest standards for himself and for the musicians who played with him in a career spanning seven decades. Goodman received honorary doctorates from Columbia, Yale, and Harvard, the Kennedy Center Honors, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

IJS owns the most complete collection of Goodman recordings anywhere. It consists entirely of reel- to-reel tapes compiled by Goodman biographer/discographer D. Russell Connor over four decades; Connor donated the collection to IJS in 2006. As a close friend and confidant to Goodman, Connor had access to the clarinetist's personal archive, as well as to collections of many Goodman researchers and specialists worldwide. The unissued or rare recordings selected for digitization as part of the project total approximately 400 hours.

Both collections contain many rare and some newly discovered performances. The Carter collection includes many interviews, as well as unissued collaborations with the likes of Sarah Vaughan, Nat King Cole, and Oscar Peterson. Among the earliest items are broadcasts from Harlem's legendary Savoy Ballroom where Carter led his big band in 1939. There are also many examples of Carter's soundtracks for feature films, beginning with the 1943 classic Stormy Weather and for such television series as Chrysler Theater, Ironside, and the Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Among the Goodman rarities are hundreds of airchecks from the famed Let's Dance and Camel Caravan broadcasts from the 1930s, unissued concert recordings spanning several decades and emanating from Europe, the Far East, and many locations throughout the U.S., and his final studio recordings made only months before his death in 1986. The newly digitized recordings from both collections total nearly 20,000 individual tracks.

Further information about the project, as well as content listings and audio samples from each collection may be found on the IJS website:

Posted October 31, 2011