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A one hundred foot tall billboard couldn't advertise James Carter's embrace of the ancient-to-the-future approach to music more blatantly than the content he navigates on his concurrent pair of new releases. While on "Layin' In The Cut" Carter frames the ultra-expressionist syntax of funk saxophone with a harmolodic backdrop of electronically amplified strings, "Chasin' The Gypsy" -- a homage to the music of the legendary Romany guitarist Django Reinhardt -- is an all-acoustic melody feast. A virtuoso on the entire saxophone family, Carter has been known to indulge in semantic excesses extraneous to the function of the content at hand. Not here. Joined by nylon string guitar master Romero Lubambo and steel string guitarist Jay Berliner, Carter tackles Reinhardt's timeless songs with undiminished flair and mature discretion. Highlights include a sequence of bass saxophone statements unmatched in the jazz literature since Adrian Rollini's heyday coinciding with Reinhardt's early career seventy years ago. He coaxes a mellow sound from the huge horn on Reinhardt's classic "Nuages" at a tango gait in dialogue with accordionist Charlie Giordano; tears through the "Rhythm" variant "Artillerie Lourde (Heavy Artillery)" with machete-sharp cut, exchanging finely-carved bop licks with violinist Regina Carter; and following a concertized violin over accordion introduction, makes you hear the monster sing the lyric on "I'll Never Be the Same." Always a devotee of pre-bop tenor saxophone styles, Carter's vocalized arpeggiations on "La DerniŠre BergŠre (The Last Shepherdess)" evoke tenor saxophonist supreme Coleman Hawkins; he deploys rich vibrato a la Ike Quebec on "Manoir De Mes Rˆves (Castle Of My Dreams)" and on "Avanlon" conjures an influence-distilling Carterian fantasy that the violinist matches phrase for phrase. Carter extracts every ounce of warm tone from F-mezzo saxophone on the exotic "Oriental Shuffle," replete with Cyro Baptista's array of gong tones and Joey Baron's consonant trapset, and in duo with Berliner on an original, "Imiri's Lullaby," while his soprano sax stylings on "Chasin' the Gypsy" raises the spirit of Sidney Bechet's legendary encounters with Reinhardt. Entirely without affect, the ambiance of "Chasin' The Gypsy" is not unlike that of the soundtrack to the Robert Altman film "Kansas City," on which Carter, Josh Redman, Nicholas Payton, and a host of young talent gracefully inhabited the skin of the masters whose wit and ingenuity established the bedrock on which jazz stands.
Performance CreditsJames Carter Primary Artist,Bass Saxophone,Soprano Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone
Jay Berliner Steel Guitar
Joey Baron Drums
Cyro Baptista Percussion
Regina Carter Violin
Charlie Giordano Accordion
Romero Lubambo Guitar (Nylon String)
Steve Kirby Bass
Technical CreditsStéphane Grappelli Composer
Yves Beauvais Producer
James Carter Producer
Danny Kopelson Engineer
Benjamin Niles Art Direction
Scott Young Engineer
Ross Peterson Engineer