Sunday, March 18, 2012

James Carter's Stirring "Present Tense"

One is almost tempted to use the word audacious to describe the music of James Carter. The virtuosity he exhibits on a range of saxophones, flute and bass clarinet goes beyond the simple label of novelty while at the same time playing with passion and thoughtfulness. He caresses a ballad as well as can get down in the alley with a gutbucket blues solo.

Present Tense on Emarcy is his most recent recording and has him supported by his terrific band of Dwight Adams on brass, D.D. Jackson on piano, James Genus on bass and Victor Lewis on drums with appearances on guitar by Rodney Jones and congas and percussion by Eli Fountain. I am familiar with the opening Rapid Shave, from a Shirley Scott recording with Stanley Turrentine on tenor. Carter and his group burn on this one with Adams taking the first solo followed by Jackson’s piano before Carter storms in on Baritone. Bro. Dolphy, is Carter’s tribute to the legendary multi-instrumentalist and has Carter taking a serpentine bass clarinet solo.

Carter has exhibited a great appreciation for the music of Django Reinhardt, and uses the soprano for his interpretation of Reinhardt’s ballad, Pour Que Ma Vie Demeure, which also has a nice bass solo. Song of Delilah, is best known from the classic Clifford Brown-Max Roach recording, and opens here with Carter on soprano evoking a snake charmer before Carter introduces the theme on baritone followed by Adams bright, pungent tone for a fresh and vibrant interpretation.

Carter displays his virtuosity on flute on Dodo Marmarosa’s Dodo Bounce, with Adams using a mute on his solo. Gigi Gyre’s Hymn of the Orient is another brisk tempoed number showcasing’s Carter on baritone, while he takes up the tenor for his original Bossa J.C. on which Jones adds a nice acoustic guitar break. He stays on tenor for some fine ballad playing on the closing Tenderly, exploiting the tenor’s full range and Adams’ excellent muted playing complements his playing.

Having been following Carter since his participation on the late Lester Bowie’s Organ Ensemble, it is satisfying to watch him continue to grow as a musician, composer and group leader. Backed by a superb band and mixing in strong originals with interpretations of material that with the exception of Tenderly, have not been interpreted often nor as well. Present Tense, is another brilliant addition to James Carter’s body of recordings.

This review originally appeared in the July 2008 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 306). I believe I received my review copy from the publication. Now here is some James Carter with his organ trio.

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