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.
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