Maysa holds unique status in the world of R&B/Jazz. Her incomparably lush, sensuous vocals have garnered her legions of loyal, loving fans. As featured vocalist of the UK super group Incognito, core member of Stevie Wonder’s Wonderlove and, of course, through her own albums and concerts, Maysa has been thrilling R&B and Jazz audiences for decades.
Blue Velvet Soul is far and away the most sensuous and heartfelt recording of her brilliant career. Maysa thrills us with a stirring rendition of the Mariah Carey classic “I Still Believe” and her version of “Quiet Fire” a loving tribute to her mentor and role model Nancy Wilson that will leave you breathless!
A special highlight is the guest vocal appearance and soulful production by Jean Paul “Bluey” Bluey Maunick , the creator of Incognito, who contribute 3 originals to this. R&B super producer Mike City (Rihanna, Jamie Foxx, Ledisi) contributes several brilliant originals to the mix, and Chris “Big Dog” Davis (Kim Burrell, Will Downing, George Clinton), Maysa’s longtime collaborator and inspiration, round out the inspired supporting cast!
2013 release from the veteran Jazz outfit. A Rise In The Road is indeed an appropriate title for a time-honored ensemble that has never been fearful of facing newer musical horizons, not to mention the myriad challenges of life itself. Produced by Ferrante, Mintzer and Kennedy, A Rise In The Road stands shoulder-to-shoulder with their 21 previous efforts.
”It’s about the challenges that people face in their lives and whatever path they are on: It’s not always smooth sailing, it’s not always a level road,” explains Ferrante, with regards to the project’s meaning. ”Certainly, over the 32 years that we’ve been a band, we’ve had things come up, challenges such as musicians that have left the band, business people, relationships that you have built over the years. Things come to an end, and you have to meet the challenge and keep going forward.”
Larry Corban’s debut trio recording was created in the company of bassist Harvie S (#1 CD on Billboard Charts 2013, “Witchcraft” duo with Kenny Barron) and drummer Steve Williams (Shirley Horn’s drummer for 25 years). The essence of this band can be described as “the sound of Wes Montgomery playing Countdown in 5/4 with the Miles Davis 60’s quintet rhythm section, Ron Carter and Tony Williams, backing him.” In the guitar trio environment, Larry’s playing has a sharp-edged, metallic chording, stinging single notes, and the seemingly effortless ability to move back and forth between the two modes.
Solo guitar with bass/drums accompaniment is at the centerpiece of this project but the acoustic guitar duets done with overdubbing add another sound texture. Thirteen out of the fourteen songs on this record are penned by Larry with moods ranging from an uptempo 4/4 “burner” (Enjoy the Ride) to a medium tempo “swinger” (Sideswiped) to a moody introspective “bossa” (Roll the Dice) to a gorgeous “ballad” (The Second She Leaves, which features Harvie S bowing the melody). “Seventh Dimension”(in 7/8), “Story Inside My Head” (Countdown changes in 5/4 with a new melody), and “Wolf’s Den” (2 reharmonized chorus of blues ala Joe Henederson) will appeal to jazz fans with an adventurous flair.
“Bossa Barb” is a slow, loose moody bossa with a gorgeous bass solo by Harvie S. “Blink of an Eye” is a “Coltrane/Elvin 3/4” featuring Steve Williams with a solo guitar intro that brings to mind Lenny Breau. The great texture changers are the duets done with overdubs using a steel string acoustic (Seventh Dimension in 7/8), nylon string acoustic (Dreamwheel in 3/4), and Gibson L-5 (3 Hours Late). These acoustic pieces will appeal to John McLaughlin fans of the My Goals Beyond CD and Pat Metheny fans of One Quiet Night. The ballad “Hmm” is a solo guitar piece done with fingers with a relaxed, meditative feel.
“East of the Sun” by Bowman Brooks, the one standard on the CD, is done as a medium tempo with brushes and gets a tour-de-force treatment ala Joe Pass. As interesting as the songs are as musical vehicles, they are written as a way to commemorate and tell the stories of various events that we participate in through life itself.
Bobby McFerrin brings it all back home with his new album, spirityouall, re-imagining Americana with beloved spirituals and original songs. Bobby invites us along on his everyday search for grace, wisdom, and freedom, embracing bluegrass and the baroque, heartfelt lyrics and wordless melodies, joy and sorrow.
He throws some unexpected new ingredients into the melting pot and invites us to sing together through life’s trials and triumphs. Across genres, across boundaries, across generations, spirityouall raises the roof with joyful grooves.
About the Artist:
For decades Bobby McFerrin has broken all the rules. The 10-time Grammy winner has blurred the distinction between pop music and fine art, goofing around barefoot in the world’s finest concert halls, exploring uncharted vocal territory, inspiring a whole new generation of a cappella singers and the beatbox movement. His new album, spirityouall re-imagines Americana with beloved spirituals and original songs, raising the roof with joyful grooves. This bluesy, feel-good recording (featuring an incredible lineup of great musicians including Larry Campbell, Charley Drayton, Gil Goldstein, Larry Grenadier, Ali Jackson, and Esperanza Spalding) is an unexpected move from the music-industry rebel who singlehandedly redefined the role of the human voice with his a cappella hit “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” his collaborations with Yo-Yo Ma, Chick Corea and the Vienna Philharmonic, his improvising choir Voicestra, and his legendary solo vocal performances. All that pioneer spirit and virtuosity has opened up a great big sky, including game-changing experiments in multi-tracking (Don’t Worry, Be Happy has seven separate, over-dubbed vocal tracks; Bobby”s choral album VOCAbuLarieS has thousands). But virtuosity isn’t the point. “I try not to “perform” onstage,” says Bobby. “I try to sing the way I sing in my kitchen, because I just can’t help myself. I want to get people to just sing the way they do when they’re just hanging out waiting for the bus, in their regular “blue-jeans” voice. I want to bring audiences into the incredible feeling of joy and freedom I get when I sing. “Ask him where he went to school, and he just might tell you that he is a graduate of MSU: Making Stuff Up. “Music for me is like a spiritual journey down into the depths of my soul,” says McFerrin. “And I like to think we’re all on a journey into our souls. What’s down there? That’s why I do what I do.”
But Beautiful is Brandon Bernstein’s debut CD as a bandleader. The CD features ten jazz standards performed by Brandon on guitar, legendary bassist Putter Smith (formally with Thelonious Monk) and one of Los Angeles finest drummers, Kendall Kay. On But Beautiful the trio takes standards we all know, and love and reinterpret them, infusing the tracks with their own unique feel.
With new song offerings from Alan Sparhawk of Low, Nick Lowe, and three new Jeff Tweedy originals, One True Vine is at once a darker and more uplifting album than its Grammy-winning predecessor, You Are Not Alone.
Anchored by reinventions of two ’70s classics – Funkadelic’s ‘Can You Get To That?’ and the Staple Singer’s ‘I Like The Things About Me’ – producer Jeff Tweedy and Staples have constructed a dense narrative that starts with the soul-searching of Sparhawk’s ‘One Holy Ghost’ and Tweedy’s ‘Jesus Wept,’ and then breaks wide open with Nick Lowe’s soaring ‘Far Celestial Shores.’
UPCOMING TOUR DATES
|Camden, NJ, US
Dave Matthews Band with Mavis Staples at Susquehanna Bank Center
|Camden, NJ, US
Dave Matthews Band with Mavis Staples at Susquehanna Bank Center
|Portland, OR, US
Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival 2013
|Apple Valley, MN, US
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue with Mavis Staples at Weesner Amphitheater, Minnesota Zoo
Mavis Staples at Market Hall
Oslo Jazzfestival 2013
|Chicago, IL, US
Young the Giant with Neko Case, Mavis Staples, The Hold Steady, and 5 more… at Hideout Block Party
|Chicago, IL, US
Hideout Block Party with Jon Langford, Young the Giant, Neko Case, and 6 more… at Hideout
|Nashville, TN, US
Mavis Staples with The Blind Boys of Alabama at War Memorial Auditorium, Tennessee Performing Arts Center
|Seattle, WA, US
Mavis Staples at The Moore Theatre
Any time that Grammy winning bassist, composer,arranger and bandleader Christian McBride steps into the studio or onto a stage he plays what could be called “people music,” but it’s a particularly apt title for the second release by his hard-swinging acoustic quintet Inside Straight. Four years after Kind of Brown, the band’s acclaimed debut album, People Music delivers a more road- tested, “lived-in” Inside Straight, able to dig deep while projecting that ebullient vigor that has become McBride’s trademark.“People Music is my personal mantra as a musician,” McBride says of the title.
“Sometimes jazz musicians can get too caught up in their own heads; they get so serious and so caught up in their creativity that they’re not bringing the people in. So I figure the best way to communicate is to let the people navigate where you should go.” The melody of the new album’s opening track, “Listen to the Heroes Cry,” evokes a modern spiritual, and was inspired by the parade of vapid performances on a music awards show McBride watched one night, which he described as all garish spectacle and absolutely no substance. Six of the album’s eight tracks feature the core lineup of McBride, saxophonist Steve Wilson, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, pianist Peter Martin and drummer Carl Allen.
The other two tracks substitute pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr., who have performed extensively with the band when Martin’s touring schedule with Dianne Reeves or Allen’s duties as Artistic Director of Jazz Studies at Juilliard keep them away from the bandstand. Sands and Owens also comprise McBride’s new trio, which will make its recording debut later this year. While Christian McBride wrote most of the compositions, Wolf provides “Gang Gang,” the name that a dancer (like Wolf’s wife) would use in place of a musician’s “Afro- Cuban” or “12/8” to refer to the song’s surging rhythm.
Sands brings the bright-hued “Dream Train,” while Martin offers the stealth funk of “Unusual Suspects” which recalls the groove of “Used ‘Ta Could” from Kind of Brown. Wilson’s entrancing ballad “Ms. Angelou” draws inspiration from the words and rhythms of the great poet while also exemplifying the saxophonist’s own unique approach. Overall, this recording swings and swings hard.
Getting to the Downbeat…
” Why produce a Jazz recording with the Muck? The answer is the inertia of a chance meeting. More than ten years ago, when relocating to California to head the jazz program at CSU, Fullerton, Glenn Cashman and I were simultaneously out and about viewing dwelling spaces. We arrived at the same place at the same time, struck up a conversation and became fast friends. I began to invite Glenn to play on industrial, commercial and demo recordings I was writing, composing and producing. What a brilliant player he was/is! At the time I was on a kick to get to know Fullerton in a more social way. Since I had raised my children there, I decided it was time for some payback.
I began attending charitable events and discovered the Muck. I found the facility to be charming, unique and special. They had an intimate amphitheater perfectly suited to Jazz performances. And all of that was the stunning gift the Muckenthaler family had given to the local citizenry. After the idea germinated, I proposed to Glenn that we create and produce a Jazz Festival there. He agreed and we asked jazz venue pioneer, and former Stan Kenton Orchestra member, Howard Rumsey to advise us. Eight now-sold-out seasons later, we asked ourselves what was next. With the concerts, we have strived not only to host a more Straight Ahead genre but also to honor the quality and spirit of the Muckenthalers’ gift by inviting only the highest possible caliber of players to concertize there. Following that mission and purpose we now wish to distribute the goods news farther afield. The actual music recorded here represents Glenn Cashman’s composing and arranging abilities to be of the highest possible order.
And as a bandleader and player, combined with the brilliance of the full band represented herein, I believe this recording fulfills that requirement. Also, please understand this recording was funded with donations from those who have become believers in our cause through concert attendance! We wish to thank them, honor their generous spirits, and multiply their gifts by sharing the proceeds from this recording with the Muckenthaler Cultural Center and with Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières). We also wish to thank you for your support. We believe in the universal appeal of having given your best effort and sharing it. Combining all of the above thoughts with the international interest in Jazz Music we entitled this recording Music Without Borders. We hope you will love this recording and recommend it to your friends.”
– Eric Futterer (Guitar)
Robin Bessier’s debut album, Other Side of Forever is a musical journey — a kaleidoscope of musical influences and philosophical perspectives, including five never-before recorded originals, and fresh takes on a few select jazz standards.
Bessier’s crystalline vocals are met with lush arrangements that include all six members of the band on-deck; small combos that dig deep into the groove of each song; and stripped-down impromptu pieces with piano and voice alone. The album interweaves toe-tapping swing tunes, with cool and swaying bossas, haunting ballads and effervescent sambas.
The album begins with one of Bessier’s originals, a swinging “Don’t Worry, We’ve Got You.” Reminiscent of Freddy Green, guitarist Dan Sales does serious justice with his back-up and solo.
“Jubilee” is a joy-infused piece that drops you into a Caribbean street parade. Percussionist Jeff Busch brings out all his toys on this piece, and Jay Thomas clones himself, playing both trumpet and saxophone in a call and response solo. Producer/arranger Barney McClure adds his voice to the chorus vocals here.
“God Bless the Child” is a simple, soulful rendition, featuring Barney McClure on piano (the only song he plays on in this album, that otherwise features the phenomenal Darin Clendenin on piano). Barney is a monster player in his own right, and this song is just a hint of what he is capable of. A consummate accompanist, he lays back and gives Bessier room to move.
“Right Here, Right Now” is another Bessier original, written the morning after she sang for the first time with Barney at the renowned Upstage Theater and Restaurant in Port Townsend. It should be noted that Barney had shared the title song “Other Side of Forever” with Robin during rehearsal that previous afternoon. These initial steps began the journey that became this album.
“Prelude to a Kiss” is inspired by, and dedicated to, the extraordinary jazz singer, Jan Stentz, who passed out of this physical realm much too young. Her consummate musicianship and beautiful spirit remain a constant influence.
Barney’s Latin song “Too Nice” was too fun not to include in this album. And listen for the solo section. Jay Thomas and Darin Clendenin smoke.
“Whisper” is one of Bessier’s first compositions, written before the turn of the century (sadly yes, this is true…). To hear this piece come to life under the skilled hands of these world class musicians was a dream come true.
“Better Than Anything” poses a philosophical question that has been debated for several years, but there is no debating that this version, which features the masterful Mark Ivester on drums, offers up more than your average waltz.
Daren Clendenin arranged the beautiful Herbie Hancock song “Harvest Time” in a way that honors the original instrumental version, with a seamless blending of the vocal that includes words by Herbie’s sister Jean. Darin’s sensitive playing, that manages to be light yet full of substance at the same time is exquisite, allowing Bessier the freedom to be introspective and to soar.
“The Very Thought of You,” typically done as a ballad, takes on new energy with this swinging version. The brilliant bassist Clipper Anderson, who shines throughout this album, is featured on the solo section.
“On the other side of forever…” The words and haunting melody of the title track of this album evoke a yearning for what was, for what could have been; the bittersweet impermanence of life here in the this physical plane; the illusion and fleeting nature of time; and ultimately, the value of living in and appreciating the simplicity of each moment.
- Robin Bessier – Voice
(Pronounced: Robin Bess-‐ee-‐ay’)
- Darin Clendenin – Piano
(Pronounced: Darin Clen-‐den’-‐in)
- Clipper Anderson – Bass
- Mark Ivester – Drums
(Pronounced: Mark I’-‐ves-‐ter)
- Jay Thomas –Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Tenor & Soprano Sax
- Jeff Busch – Percussion
- Dan Sales – Guitar & Banjo
- *Mike McKinley – hand percussion on Jubilee
- *David Lange – hand percussion on Jubilee
(Pronounced David LANG)
- *Barney McClure – piano on God Bless the Child; background vocals and hand percussion on Jubilee
The scope of keyboardist-composer-producer George Duke’s imprint on jazz and pop music over the past forty years is almost impossible to calculate. He has collaborated with some of the most prominent figures in the industry. A producer since the 1980s, he has crafted scores of fine recordings – many of them GRAMMY? winners – for artists representing almost every corner of the contemporary American music landscape.
Duke was born in San Rafael, California, in January 1946. When he was four, his mother took him to a performance by that other Duke of jazz, Duke Ellington. He admits that he doesn’t remember much of the performance, but his mother told him years later that he spent the next several days demanding a piano.
Duke began his formal training on the instrument at age seven, his earliest influence being the culturally and historically rich black music of his local Baptist church. By his teen years, his universe of musical influences had expanded to include the more secular sounds of young jazz mavericks like Miles Davis, Les McCann and Cal Tjader – all of whom inspired him to play in numerous high school jazz groups. After high school, he attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and received a bachelors degree in 1967.
But perhaps the most important lessons came after college, when Duke joined Al Jarreau in forming the house band at the Half Note, the popular San Francisco club, in the late ‘60s. He also played with Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon in other San Francisco clubs around the same time.
For the next several years, Duke experimented with jazz and fusion by collaborating and performing with artists as diverse as Jean Luc-Ponty, Frank Zappa, Cannonball Adderley, Nancy Wilson, Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Cobham and Stanley Clarke. He launched his solo recording career at age 20, and shortly thereafter began cutting LPs for the MPS label in the ‘70s. As the decade progressed, he veered more toward fusion, R&B and funk with albums like From Me To You (1976) and Reach For It(1978).
During this period he recorded what is possibly his best known album, Brazilian Love Affair. Released in 1980, the album included vocals by Flora Purim and Milton Nascimento, and percussion by Airto Moreira. Love Affair stood in marked contrast to the other jazz/funk styled albums he was cutting at the time.
Duke’s reputation as a skilled producer was also gathering steam. By the end of the ‘80s, he had made his mark as a versatile producer by helping to craft recordings by a broad cross section of jazz, R&B and pop artists: Raoul de Souza, Dee Dee Bridgewater, A Taste of Honey, Jeffrey Osborne, Deniece Williams, Melissa Manchester, Al Jarreau, Barry Manilow, Smokey Robinson, The Pointer Sisters, Take 6, Gladys Knight, Anita Baker and many others. Several of these projects scored GRAMMY? Awards.
During this time, Duke was just as busy outside the studio as inside. He worked as musical director for numerous large-scale events, including the Nelson Mandela tribute concert at Wembley Stadium in London in 1988. The following year, along with Marcus Miller, he served as musical director of NBC’s acclaimed late-night music performance program, Sunday Night.
The ‘90s were no less hectic. He toured Europe and Japan with Dianne Reeves and Najee in 1991, and joined the Warner Brothers label the following year with the release of Snapshot, an album that stayed at the top of the jazz charts for five weeks and generated the top 10 R&B single, “No Rhyme, No Reason.”
Other noteworthy albums in the ‘90s included the orchestral tour de force Muir Woods Suite (1993) and the eclecticIllusions (1995), in addition to the numerous records Duke produced for a variety of other artists: Najee, George Howard, the Winans, and Natalie Cole (Duke produced 1/3 of the material on Cole’s GRAMMY?-winning 1996 release, Stardust).
In 2000, Duke severed his ties with Warner Records and launched his own record label, BPM (Big Piano Music). “I spent thirty years at other labels as a recording artist,” he says. “I felt it was time for me to step up to the next level of challenge and form a company that would give me and other artists the opportunity to create quality music and push back the musical restraints that dominate most record labels these days.”
But even with the new responsibilities and challenges associated with running a record label, Duke has continued to juggle the multiple career tracks of recording solo albums, international touring and producing records for other artists. In addition to his own Face the Music (2002), he also produced recent records for Wayman Tisdale, Dianne Reeves, Kelly Price, Regina Belle and Marilyn Scott.
For the better part of 25 years, Duke has also composed and recorded numerous scores for film and television. In addition to nine years as the musical director for the Soul Train Music Awards, he also wrote music – either individual songs or entire soundtracks – for a number of films, including The Five Heartbeats, Karate Kid III, Leap of Faith, Never Die Alone andMeteor Man.
With more than thirty solo recordings in his canon and a resume that spans more than 40 years, Duke joins forces with the Heads Up label with the August 26, 2008, release of Dukey Treats, a return to the old-school funk sensibilities of icons like James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone and Parliament/Funkadelic. A careful balance of rhythmic energy and simmering balladry, Dukey Treats recalls the golden age of funk and soul, while at the same time maintaining a fresh sound and addressing issues that are relevant to the global culture of the 21st century.
“I feel a responsibility to carry positive messages in my music,” says Duke. “I think music is meant to lift people up. I don’t think you can push things under the rug and not address them. Those who have the ability and the opportunity to let people know what’s going on musically and socially should not be afraid to say it and do it and play about it and sing about it.”
Pablo Ablanedo was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is a composer, pianist and music educator. In 1996, he graduated with a diploma in Jazz Composition from Berklee College of Music, where he took part in the last courses taught by the legendary trumpet player Herb Pomeroy. Pablo’s artistic development owes much to the Argentinian classical pianist Susana Bonora, with who he has been working since the 80’s. In 1999, he joined forces with a diverse group of jazz players to form the Pablo Ablanedo Octet.
In the decade since, Pablo has recorded three albums on Fresh Sound New Talent Records. From Down There (2001) and Alegría (2004) received 4 and 4½ stars, respectively, in Down Beat Magazine, and JazzMan Magazine (France) gave the multi-artist project The Sound of New York Underground (2004) its highest rating CHOC. Pablo’s work has also been commissioned by Paquito D’Rivera to be performed by Germany’s NDR Big Band.
His current release is Recontradoble, a new album recorded with his Octet after a successful fund rising project on Kickstarter.com. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with his wife, the french painter Lucile Chaurin Ablanedo and their basset hound Tosca.
A plethora of captivating artists join Booker on his upcoming celebratory return to Stax Records, including Anthony Hamilton, Raphael Saadiq, Mayer Hawthorne, Estelle, Vintage Trouble, Luke James and James Jay Picton among many others. Gary Clark Jr., Poncho Sanchez, and Sheila E. also contribute their singular instrumental prowess to the soulful tracks among this highly anticipated release.
Booker T Jones is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Musicians Hall of Fame inductee and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. Arguably, as the leader of the legendary Memphis soul icons, Booker T and the MG’s, he single-handedly set the cast for modern soul on classic Stax tunes like “Green Onions” and “Time is Tight.”
Matt Herskowitz blends jazz and classical influences on his new solo piano recording titled Upstairs. Released on Justin Time Records, the CD was recorded live at Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on November 6, 2011. Upstairs is Mr. Herskowitz’s follow up to his 2010 acclaimed Jerusalem Trilogy and features songs composed by Dave Brubeck (“Dziekuje”), Michel Petrucciani (“Cantabile”), J.S. Bach (“Bach A La Jazz) and George & Ira Gershwin (“But Not For Me,” and “I’ve Got Rhythm”).
Herskowitz also wrote and arranged several originals for the program. The night opened with Mr. Herskowitz’s interpretation of Dave Brubeck’s rhapsodic homage to Chopin titled “Dziekuje.” His performance got raves from the late pianist himself and Herskowitz’s tribute to his friend is certainly one of the most inspired performances on the recording. Further inspiration came from Mr. Herskowitz’s visit to Moscow as a competitor in the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition.
“Waltz In Moscow” is a refined piece that emphasizes Herskowitz’s classical influences and calls attention to his fluid pianism. He further accentuates his classical flair in “Traumerei” by Robert Schumann. His stellar arrangement makes this masterwork accessible to a new generation of pianists who may excel in the classical/jazz genre by adding it to their repertoire. The entire recording underlines Mr. Herskowitz’s virtuosity and finesse as a pianist and ranks among his finest works
Dave Koz is joined by a front line of top-notch horn players (Mindi Abair, Richard Elliot & Gerald Albright) to re-interpret an array of powerhouse horn-heavy songs made famous by Tower of Power, Chicago, EW&F, James Brown, Sly & The Family Stone, Ronnie Laws, Blood Sweat & Tears and others.
Three of the world’s best horn arrangers are contributing their talents: Greg Adams (Tower of Power) and Tom Scott. Topping it off is a sax-only rendition of “Take Five” with Gordon Goodwin offering his arrangement to the quartet.
A Conversation With
By Fred Jung
James Carter is one of a handful of musicians that is consistently making some of the finest music in jazz today. His name has become a buzzword for critics, for connoisseurs of jazz music, and the industry as a whole. He is a man in charge of his own destiny and his perceptive on his life, his music, and his future is mature beyond his years. The young saxophonist and I took some time during his tour to speak candidly about his influences, his music, his views, and his love, the saxophone.
JazzUSA: You came from humble beginnings. Let’s talk about how you came to play jazz music and your inspirations as a youth to pursue the music.
JC: First of all, I was born in Detroit. I’m the youngest of five and my family was always musically inclined. My mom was at the helm of the music part of it, as far as participatory where I was concerned because she used to play violin or piano during the school days. My father, who I did not have around long enough, he passed when I was, a little after two, about two and a half or something like that. He was into blues. He was an avid blues cat. He listened to B. B. King and others blues players like Muddy Waters, Elmore James, you know. I think he pretty much had an earful of what my people would call ‘good music’. But I think it was also because that’s what those artists had attention for, honesty, and what they were trying to convey and communicate to their listening audience, be it live, or on vinyl, or 8 track, whatever the case might have been at the time. It is the honesty that is what I have kept with me and it’s been somewhat incarnated in my music. Studying music and music being life. Music being an honest recollection of one’s own experiences to date or perceptions of tomorrow as well as today and of the past, whatever. It’s all part of one continuum.
JazzUSA: All these individuals were instrumental in your development as an artist and as a musician. Let’s talk about how each individual influenced you and how you developed your relationship. First, Wynton Marsalis.
JC: To begin with, as far as Wynton was concerned, the time I went down, I originally met him in March of ’85. He came to our town and was a guest soloist with the symphony at the time and the Board of Education got him to do a question and answer that was attended by the citywide fine arts departments of various schools. I met him because our jazz band was also hosting the event. Our school was hosting the event and they came from miles around for that. That’s how we pretty much met and exchanged numbers. I ended up taking my first tour of Europe that same year, in the summer, under an international jazz exchange program. While I was out on that tour, I was looking at MTV one day and I noticed that Wynton’s brother was playing with Sting. I wondered if it was something that he was a guest on or was he actually doing that. Later on that year, I got back into the States and it was pretty much confirmed that he had left the group (referring to Wynton Marsalis’s quintet in the early 1980’s with brother Branford Marsalis, Kenny Kirkland, Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts, and Charnett Moffett, Branford Marsalis left in late 1985) and Wynton’s manager called up and said, ‘We’d like for you to come down and play at Blues Alley.’ So I went on the second week of December in 1985 to Blues Alley and played there for the week. That’s how that started and it pretty much was a series of concerts that came from that gig, up until the summer of ’87. There’s was a little national eyebrow lifting, but nothing that was really on any given level, or what you would call notice or anything like that, except for one People Magazine interview that I did in March of ’87 and that was the first national splash and all.
JazzUSA: Lester Bowie.
JC: Lester, now that was more important, I would feel. It was most important because in ’88, May to be exact, ever since we played our first gig together, I was a last minute addition at the Detroit Institute of Art’s Recital Hall, part of a chamber jazz concert series in which Lester was soloing and guest artist of. We exchanged information and he was talking to me about putting a group together, which subsequently became the New York Organ Ensemble, but it started out with piano. We premiered it here in New York, first week of November in ’88. That was my first time here in New York as a musician and through that particular incident, I met Frank Lowe and subsequently lead me into meeting Julius Hemphill in St. Louis. I played with him for a long time. I became a member of the sextet from ’89 on up until his death in ’95.
JazzUSA: You divide your time between your own career as a leader and also with that of dame Kathleen Battle, Frank Lowe’s Saxemble, and Hamiett Bluiett’s Baritone Nation. How has playing in such a variety of settings aided you musically? Let’s start off with Bluiett’s Baritone Nation.
JC: It’s something that we’ve been threatening to do for the longest. It was just a matter of getting the right personalities on baritone together. Through Patience Higgins and Alex Harding, whom I had told Julius about, and also in turn told Bluiett about. We went to school together. We went to high school together, played in a jazz band. Then he came out here to New York to try and get some stuff together and so I tried to turn him on to different people. Anyway, the Baritone Nation pretty much instilled to me the viability of the baritone saxophone standing on its own two feet, with no rhythm section, just pure sound. We just added another dimension to it by using low clarinets, based on two bass clarinets, with Alex and Patience playing bass clarinets and Bluiett was playing contra-alto clarinet and I played the contra-bass clarinet. We just recently premiered that at the Texaco Jazz Festival (New York). We didn’t even use all of the material. We just went over a couple of things impromptu. We didn’t use it all during the concert because of time restraints and all. That’s what the Bluiett situation means to me.
JazzUSA: Are you going to record another album with Bluiett’s Baritone Nation?
JC: I think so. Well, I know so because I’m quite sure we want to record and document the clarinets being added on to the situation and see if there is some other cohesiveness that could take place. Right now, I think we’re in the process of finding another drummer.
JazzUSA: How about your time with opera diva Kathleen Battle?
JC: I always loved working with vocalists and her being an operatic soprano, I was widening her horizon. Being there to be a part of it, and watching her development, and being part of her development as well was really hip to me. I first saw her on television on a Boston Pops thing that John Williams was conducting. Branford was guest starring along with her. They got together and did a collaboration of some Duke Ellington stuff towards the latter part of that broadcast. I thought it was a very nice situation and I could hear myself doing other things with it. I kept saying if I ever got the chance for something like that to come to fruition, I would. The New York City Ballet called me up and asked me to come down to the studio because Kathleen wants to do a little ‘blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah’. I consented and went down there and that’s how it happened. I enjoyed every minute of it, every solo, and I enjoyed playing along with her. She was a nice vocalist in terms of personality, on and off the stage.
JazzUSA: Do you enjoy the opera?
JC: Yes. I like Caruso.
JazzUSA: And Frank Lowe’s Saxemble?
JC: Frank Lowe was one of the heroes I grew up hearing about. I felt like it’s one thing to know about these individuals, but when I was doing the gig with Lester, one night we were playing down there, I kept noticing this tall cat with dreads, with a couple of saxophones with him. He had a saxophone case on his back, anyway, I noticed. Just being curious and being in New York for the first time, I said, ‘Hey, I want to know who that is.’ So I went up to Lester real quiet and asked, ‘Who’s that cat with the saxophone case?’ He said, ‘Oh, that’s Frank Lowe.’ I was like, ‘What!’ So I went up to him and I was like, ‘Yo, man. I’ve been digging you since this, that, and the other.’ He had been sticking around for the set we had just played and we had exchanged numbers as well and he was talking about putting together a group around what he had heard from me and I thought it was quite an honor for that to happen so quickly first off. We pretty much formed the group. The first group consisted of Michael Marcus, Frank Lowe, and myself. It’s always been great playing in a saxophone ensemble in a context of any sort. The last saxophone ensemble that I was playing with at that particular time was back in Detroit that consisted of eight saxophones. All of the individuals doubled on other instruments, which widened the musical scope that we were able to deal with. Unfortunately, due to lack of gigs and lack of inspiration in Detroit the situation started falling off and the members started falling off one by one. We went from eight to five and then four in that same year, one by one. They felt it wasn’t going anywhere and started dropping off one by one. So we just don’t exist anymore.
JazzUSA: I had a conversation with Sonny Rollins and during the course of our conversation together, your name was mentioned by Sonny. It is gratifying to you to be praised by one of jazz’s living legends?
JC: We played a show back in 1996 in Cleveland, Ohio. I was on tour in Kansas City and my wife had passed on to Mr. Rollins that I was staying at such and such hotel and he called me up initially to discuss what we were going to play at this concert. Sonny and I should only have been on the phone for ten maybe fifteen minutes. It turns out we were on the phone for almost three hours. We were talking about not only music, but the way that we approach life, and certain things we have noticed where music parallels life. Just to have more of a vision then just playing the music. Giving it life, by saying, ‘Well I hear this, that, and the other in it and I see how this parallels this experience.’ It took it to a whole other level by the things he was saying. We just bonded. I’m glad you reminded me of that because I need to give him a call anyway. He ended up smoking me out at that jazz festival. He also smoked me out at the first jazz awards (New York Jazz Awards). I got about three or four nominations going and he was also on the same bill and he ended up with a clean sweep. It was late in coming anyway because the first annual jazz awards was supposed to have taken place three years ago.
JazzUSA: Most of the musicians in the current market seem content on releasing material that is “safe”. But you go out of your way to explore new music, to stretch yourself, and pave new pathways. Do you think that you are taking a risk?
JC: I don’t really try and go into thinking about things as being a risk or something like that. I think about it more or less as what I’m hearing naturally and I think that makes the injection of whatever music or whatever criteria I am listening to at that particular time that will help me with my end product. I’ll be able to digest more naturally as opposed to thinking about, well this is variables I need to take this risk. It already is a negative just by me saying that as opposed to, OK, I’m going to listen to this to help the process and have a better end product and all. If it happens to cross the line and everybody gets satisfied or some people get satisfied as well as myself, it’s all been a good day. If you are not hungry and still have the fire, then it’s about time to quit.
JazzUSA: You have a horde of saxophones. Do you have a favorite?
JC: I have one called Black Mahalia that kind of stands out. There is a story that goes along with it and it has a “Free Willy” kind of vibe to it. It starts back in the fall of 1992. The place is some place in Austria. I was over there with Julius Hemphill’s Sextet and at this festival, they had an exhibition room that consisted of places where you could get the latest CD’s, underground bootleg copies of things, even vinyl, and all sorts of small section of new and used instruments that were coming out and were for sale. At this one spot, there was a saxophone that was on display under glass that was an old Conn that had modifications done to it. I mean serious modifications. It wasn’t like somebody just threw some keys on it that were of another horn and that was it and it’s a piece meal job. I looked at it and I was like, ‘Man, this is kind of hip!’ At the time that I was playing with Julius, I was using this old Conn with me in its original form, so I was looking at the difference between the two and I was like, ‘Man, this is hip!’ Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get that instrument out of its case in order to actually play it and stuff. I just took the info that they had a pile of. Getting back with them later, I noticed that David Murray had been endorsing their product or they gave him one to play.
That following year, I talked with David Murray. I went over to his house and stuff. A couple of things had happened. His Mark VI (Selmer) got stolen and right at that time he spoke with the manufacturer that made this horn and they said they wanted him to play this horn because you are a cat on the cutting edge. David was like, ‘Cool, I need another horn anyway.’ Later on that following year, they found his horn and plus another Mark VI was loaned to him by Charles Tyler (played with David Murray in the late 60’s and early 70’s). Needless to say, Dave’s a VI man and so the Conn went into the closet. I asked whether or not it could be possible to check out Dave’s Conn, and he was like, ‘Cool.’ I played it there for a couple of hours and he let me take it back home with me. I played it for about a month and change and did a whole lot of hits on it and stuff. I called the folks up that made the horn, in Switzerland and told them that I had been hanging with my man David and I love this horn. I want to have it and this, that, and the other, and they broke it down to me and told me how much it cost and I was like, ‘What!’ At the time the horn was eight grand. They wanted to mass produce these horns with as many old Conns as they could find and I gave them some advice on what type of instruments that are out now that are more consistent, at a fraction of the cost. Anyway, I did not have the scratch on me at that particular time, so I talked to David and he wanted the horn back. So I had to give him the horn back, but before doing that I took the serial numbers and stuff off of it and gave it back to him. The following year I went over to Switzerland and I finally had some notoriety going because J. C. On The Set was out by then. I had some jack with me that I could put down on the horn as a down payment, in order to secure it. So, by the time I got all this together and I called them up and they had told me that they had sold all their horns. So I was mad, needless to say. The most they made, they only made five of them. The one that I had was the second of the five that had been made. So I was like, ‘If anyone calls up and says they don’t like their horn or whatever the case might be, them get in touch with me or get in touch with you.’ A few months later, I get a call from a guy speaking in broken English, talking about he has a black pearl Conn, and if I was interested, but he didn’t leave a number. A couple of days after that, he calls up again, and I was on my way out to go to the store and I heard the call come in. I unlocked the door and ran to go get the phone and he asked, ‘Are you interested?’ And I said, “Ya, but you didn’t leave a number last time.’ He said, ‘I know. I apologize.’ I asked him if he had the horn there with him and he said yes and I asked him to tell me what it looked like. He said, ‘Blackish-gray, silver keys.’ I said, ‘OK, I’m on the right track.’ Because out of the five that they had made, three of them were blackish-gray and had silver keys. The other two were made with black keys and gold plated bodies. I knew I was in the ballpark. I had him read the numbers off to me and I was reading my numbers and the numbers matched. It turned out that this horn was in an automobile accident with him and the car was totaled but the horn was cool. He had to get another car and so needless to say he had to sell it.
JazzUSA: What did you end up paying for it?
JC: Six. By then the exchange rate had gone up on the Swiss Franc and the eight thousand that it originally was had turned into twelve. So I took it for half the original price.
JazzUSA: How many saxophones do you own?
JC: I’m in the double digits somewhat.
JazzUSA: How important is the audience’s response to you?
JC: I know it is important to the extent of knowing that you have a captive and attentive audience. It’s not the end in itself. There’s certain times in Europe as well as here where you have some unruly elements in the audience as well. It’s not cool over there to talk, but at the same time the music shouldn’t suffer as far as its mobility. If that was the case, we wouldn’t have anybody breaking any ground through the years. It would be safe to play Dixieland all the live long day, if that was the case.
JazzUSA: How are the audiences in Europe different?
JC: They are more open-minded. They act to the same extent that people here would react to pop music, popular music of today. They have that same kind of excitement for jazz.
JazzUSA: If you were to change one aspect of the jazz industry today, what would you change?
JC: The open-minded aspect of it needs to be changed. The democracy of it on both sides as far as what the powers that be deem to be fit to be playable or classified in music. Even the artists in general, there’s certain people that get stuck in their own niche and they feel that since its proven for them monetary and status-wise, that that’s the end in itself. They see somebody else doing it and they want to put them down or something. I would like to see that change as well. Just in general the democracy that’s involved. I think it would be a better situation and everybody would come to the table with something new, at least in their minds if they are not actually applying it to their art form. But at least acknowledge that, and taking that knowledge a bit further by actually documenting it. Just be glad that we are all playing and we are able to document it.
JazzUSA: How important is diversity to you and your music? On a personal level, because there’s more enthusiasm, particularly with where one’s coming from and where one’s going and to be able to actually apply it to one’s craft is a bonus. It’s icing on the cake.
JazzUSA: Let’s talk about your new album In Carterian Fashion.
JC: I wanted to do something with spirituals and in small combos or in large ensembles, I noticed that the key element was the organ. It hooked up both gospel and jazz, because it was in both of them, in both realms. I don’t know if we should call it realms. It was in the music. I wanted to do a small microcosm that represented those acoustics.
JazzUSA: For audiences that come to hear you live and that listen to your recordings, what would you like them to take away from your music?
JC: I’m glad you brought that up because a whole lot of people want to say that it’s a buch of technical feats and things like that. The technical aspects of it is only a means to an end. It is not the end in itself to see how many octaves I can jump in one single bound and all this. How long I can hold this note or whatever. I don’t ever look at it that way, that I’m going to hold this note for twenty minutes or whatever until I see somebody pass out in the audience or something. I would rather keep the spirit going and be happy for the music that comes out. When we first played here at the Iridium, a reviewer told me that he had a lot on his mind and after the show he told me that he was leaving with a clear conscience. That’s what I would like to see.
JazzUSA: The jumps and held notes are referred to as showing off or grandstanding. Is that unfair?
JC: I would say so. If it looks like I’m grandstanding, whatever the case is, then that’s their opinion, but I am just playing the music at that particular time and if that’s all they see and they can not hear beyond that then that is another example of the need for open-mindedness.
JazzUSA: Do you have a philosophy in your music and is it similar to your philosophy on life?
JC: I don’t separate the two. Music is life. Keep your ears open and digest as much as you can. Make it better for yourself and in turn make it better for the world’s situation.
JazzUSA: If you were not playing jazz, what other avenues would you like to pursue?
JC: Before jazz, I was into computers and science and all that. I would say I’m still interested in science in general because it’s another avenue that stretches the human experience in general. Any type of mystic should intrigue anybody. That’s a given. I think the miraculous way that we have all this information at our disposal at the drop of a dime and the content of said information, bio-engineering, where’s it going. Whose hands is it going to be in? How is it going to be used? Is it going to be used for the better or for the worse for mankind?
JazzUSA: What is next for James Carter?
JC: I’m looking at doing a second volume on the The Real Quietstorm series. Only the theme will be things that were done obscurely by Billie Holiday and also perceptions on things that I think she would like to listen to if she was here, which opens the poetic license for the originals as well as takes on other artists or whatever, but mostly originals. I’m thinking about dealing with that license, and with that I’m looking at not just a regular quartet with a rhythm section but also some other horn things and strings.