Bennett Lester Carter (August 8, 1907 – July 12, 2003) was an American jazz alto saxophonist, clarinetist, trumpeter, composer, arranger, and bandleader. He was a major figure in jazz from the 1930s to the 1990s, and was recognized as such by other jazz musicians who called him King. Carter performed with major artists from several generations of jazz, and at major festivals, such as his 1958 appearance with Billie Holiday at the Monterey Jazz Festival.
The National Endowment for the Arts honored Benny Carter with its highest honor in jazz, the NEA Jazz Masters Award for 1986. He was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987, and both won a Grammy Award for his solo "Prelude to a Kiss" and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994. In 2000 he was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts, National Medal of Arts, presented by President Bill Clinton.
Born in New York City in 1907, the youngest of six children and the only boy, received his first music lessons on piano from his mother. Largely self-taught, by age fifteen, Carter was already sitting in at Harlem night spots. From 1924 to 1928, Carter gained professional experience as a sideman in some of New York's most prominent bands. As a youth, Carter lived in Harlem around the corner from Bubber Miley, who was Duke Ellington's featured trumpeter. Carter was inspired by Miley and bought a trumpet, but when he found he couldn't play like Miley, he traded the trumpet in for a saxophone. For the next two years, he played with jazz musicians including cornetist Rex Stewart, clarinetist and soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet, pianists Earl Hines, Willie "The Lion" Smith, Fats Waller, James P. Johnson, Duke Ellington, and their respective groups.