Elegance, Funk From Chameleon Carter

Saxophonist James Carter has released two new discs simultaneously, each one with a clear concept.

Chasin' the Gypsy is an homage to Django Reinhardt and the Hot

Club de France. Reinhardt was the Belgian Romany jazz guitarist who

brought an amazing virtuosity and elegance to the instrument in the


On Chasin' the Gypsy, Carter fronts a stellar and wisely chosen

band that includes Romano Lubambo and Jay Berliner on nylon and

steel-stringed guitars, respectively. Also present are violinist Regina

Carter and accordion player Charlie Giordano, who contributes a healthy

dose of old-world seasoning. The rhythm team of Joey Baron on drums and

Cyro Baptista on percussion ensures that the project flows. The

resulting sound is similar to the famous Reinhardt/Stephane Grappelli


Carter's numerous sax voices alternate between tender and boisterous as

the mood dictates. A breakneck "Avalon" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Chasin' the Gypsy" (RealAudio excerpt) find him blasting through the changes with stunning fluidity on tenor saxophone on the former and clarinet on the latter.

The rest of the album is filled with midtempo selections and slow

ballads. Tunes such as "I'll Never Be the Same" (RealAudio excerpt), "Imari's Lullaby," "La Derniere Bergere" and "Manoir de Mes Reve" are convincing demonstrations of how Carter makes use of exotic tonal effects to heighten his expression.

There is no hip-hop jazz on Layin' in the Cut, just straight-up,

grade-A funk. Carter digs in with an electrified band that sounds like a cross between sax icon Sonny Rollins' '70s fusion excursions and

saxophonist Ornette Coleman's electric Prime Time bands. It's no

surprise, then, that for this recording Carter recruited three devotees

of Coleman's harmolodic funk: guitarist Jef Lee Johnson, bassist

Jamaaladeen Tacuma and drummer Calvin Weston. Factor in guitarist Marc

Ribot, and the funk gets stronger.

The groove here is infectious. Tacuma and Weston are rock-solid on tunes such as "Terminal B" (RealAudio excerpt) and "GP" (RealAudio

excerpt). Ribot and Johnson best converge on "Requiem for

Hartford Avenue" (RealAudio excerpt), where Ribot's screaming psychedelic sound fuses with Johnson's blues-tinged lines. Carter's playing is superb throughout. His ability to bark and growl through his horn never ceases to amaze, especially on "Motown Mash."

Under Carter's leadership, this music expands, twists and occasionally


Latest News