|Regina Carter has explored the world with music. Her virtuosic performances and standard of excellence has captured the hearts and minds of thousands of fans around the world whether in a jazz ensemble, orchestra or individual setting. With her keen intelligence, strong social conscience and her phenomenal success as the first African American to ever play Paganini’s 300-year old violin, the first ever Artist-In-Residence at the Monterey Jazz Festival and a host of other “firsts” she has become THE inspiration for legions of aspiring young jazz violinists. With a long list of awards and accolades to her credit in both the classical and jazz idioms Carter, who recently became the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from Michigan’s Albion College, can now add this distinction to her list of great accomplishments. From any perspective, these are brilliant achievements.
June 2006 marked yet another milestone in Regina Carter’s amazing career as a recording artist. I’ll BE SEEING YOU: A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY became Carter’s fifth release as a leader on the Verve Music Group label. This excellent recording pays tribute to her late mother with an array of songs from the Great American Songbook, a Carter original titled “How Ruth Felt,” and several others including “Sentimental Journey,” “St. Louis Blues,” “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” and “I’ll Be Seeing You.” With solid gold playing by Dr. Carter and her core group of Xavier Davis, Matthew Parrish, Alvester Garnett and with special guests Dee Dee Bridgewater, Carla Cook, Paquito D’Rivera, Gil Goldstein and stellar arrangements by John Clayton, Carter and Goldstein, I’LL BE SEEING YOU: A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY promises to be among her best releases to date. As it hits the top spot on several of the jazz charts around the world, Dr. Carter is sure to garner a whole new legion of fans. Sounds of Timeless Jazz.com spoke to Dr. Carter about the release of her new CD, her appearance at the Playboy Jazz Festival with Eddie Palmieri’s Afro Caribbean Jazz All Stars.
Regina Carter Interview
Queen Of The Jazz Violin
by Paula Edelstein
P.E.: Hello Regina, it’s so nice speaking to you again! Here’s hoping you are feeling’ good. I’d like to congratulate on your new CD called I’LL BE SEEING YOU: A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY and also on your appearance at the Playboy Jazz Festival with Eddie Palmieri’s Afro-Caribbean Jazz All Stars and David Sanchez. How is playing with this particular genre of band different from some of the other jazz ensembles that you’ve played with?
Regina: It’s really not, because I’ve played with so many different types of bands, orchestras and aggregations of musicians and styles, it wasn’t different for me. It wasn’t that far from the norm because I used to play in a charanga band in New York and I used to play in a big band called Earth Island in Detroit and there were like eleven of us! I know most of the guys in Eddie’s group. But it was a huge honor to finally meet Mr. Palmieri and to be able to play with him and record with him. He’s such a sweet, gentle soul. That always helps!
P.E.: This CD is a 360-degree turn from your PAGANINI: AFTER A DREAM recording. How did the concept for this particular CD come about?
Regina: Well, I knew I had to do a CD. It was time. It’s always such an arduous task for me to figure out what I’m going to record. This year was really difficult for me because I lost my mother last year.
P.E.: I’m sorry.
Regina: Thank you. And when I lost her, my whole love for music seemed to diminish. We were able to spend her last days together but I really thought about quitting the business. Later, I went out on the road, talked to John Clayton, who produced this record and thought about some things that John talked about. I told myself, “This is what I’ve done my whole life and my mother had put so much into me and in helping me get here….” I really wanted to do something to honor her. So I started thinking about songs that I was already playing like “Five O’Clock Whistle” and “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” were tunes that she knew. I put on ELLA AT HOME and she’d sing along with Ella. And it was good. So from that, people started making suggestions and I listened to tons and tons of music and just picked out stuff that touched me or that she would like.
P.E.: I’m sorry to hear about her passing. As one of your primary influences life, music, and career she must have been truly remarkable. You’ve created some beautiful music in her memory. “Blue Rose” is a gorgeous song and one of Duke Ellington’s rare gems that he composed for Rosemary Clooney. Your band Xavier Davis on piano, Matthew Parrish on bass and Alvester Garnett on drums really give the song an update. How has digital technology affected the way you record and the way you’re making records today?
Regina: Well, that is such a world that I am so ignorant of…the whole recording process!
P.E.: Well, are the tones clearer and sounds are crisper because those are among the accolades that I’ve heard from other musicians with respect to the updated technology.
Regina: Well, some things are clearer. My husband is a big audiophile and sometimes he hears stuff that I swear I can’t hear! (Smile) He’s gotten re-issues of the old records and sometimes he’ll say that these don’t sound as good as the original did. It just depends on what they’re using because every recording is not done the same way. It also depends on what they press the CDs on. Like this master was pressed on a gold disc. But when we got the test copy back, it didn’t sound as good. So my engineer and my husband explained that the difference was because the master was on a gold CD and the CDs are not pressed on gold and there is really a huge difference.
P.E.: I would imagine. So hopefully being mastered on a gold disc is portentous of things to come and here’s hoping the CD will reach GOLD status in sales…even platinum. Regardless of the commercial outcome, it’s already gold in your heart and mine! You’ve done such a great job and it’s a beautiful tribute to your mother.
Regina: Thank you.
P.E.: You’re also written a tender ballad called “How Ruth Felt.” It’s a waltz by definition but you’ve certainly added your jazz signature to it. How difficult is it to reconcile the spontaneity of jazz with the structured tempo and beats of a waltz?
Regina: That’s kind of an analytical way of thinking about it. My right brain totally shuts down and it just flows. I wrote that piece and it just came to me like that. I have my ideas and will say, “Here’s the piece,” to which the band may say, “Why don’t we put this here, leave this dynamic here, etc.” I’ll take their suggestions in and as the band breathes life into it, it starts to get a personality of its own before it becomes an actual tune, so to speak. But when playing tunes that already exist, first of all, just because I like a tune doesn’t mean it’s going to work for me on my instrument or with the band because there have been many tunes vocal tunes especially that I’ve tried and they’ve sounded really corny. So I’ll just leave that one alone! (Smile) Even when recording or playing a tune a year or two later, it’s forever changing because of whatever experience we’ve had. It comes through the music.
P.E.: With all of the bowing that you do, I can imagine bowing (on the violin) takes its toll on your wrists, joints, etc. What do you do to reduce the risk of injury to your hands, wrists, etc?
Regina: I have physical therapy. I make sure that I’m really stretched and work out a lot with a personal trainer to strengthen my muscles and I must always be aware of my posture.
P.E.: You’ve invited three very special guests to share in this special occasion. Dee Dee Bridgewater, who is an amazing singer; Carla Cook, who is by far one of the more innovative vocalists around; and Paquito D’Rivera on clarinet. How did these collaborations come about?
Regina: When I finally picked the tunes, I knew I wanted the both of them and it just happened to work out. But when thinking of the arrangements, the label wanted to know whether I’d have a guitar player because everyone thought, at first, that this was a Swing record. Actually a lot of the tunes were written for the Swing Era and a lot of the big bands made these songs famous, so people think of them as Swing tunes. But I didn’t want people to think this is just another Le Hot Jazz type of CD or to make the comparison to Stephen Grappelli or Django Reinhardt’s sound. So I tried to another chordal instrument…an accordion! It’s funny when you think of the accordion, clarinet and violin you immediately think of a lot of French music that was happening during that whole Le Hot Jazz Club era.
P.E.: Is this one of your first CDs to feature vocalists?
Regina: RHYTHM OF THE HEART featured Cassandra Wilson and Richard Bona.
P.E.: “This Can’t Be Love,” features Dee Dee’s amazing imitation of horns as well as her scatting technique in a great call-and-response section with you.
Regina: Both Carla and Dee Dee can. They both respected that early tradition and really took the time to learn it. They’re not singers, they’re truly great musicians.
P.E.: I must agree! Regina, you recently played at Lincoln Center with Barry Harris at the Rose Theater, you have thousands of amazing credits to your name and have played with such diverse artists as Carmen Lundy, Kenny Barron, Wynton Marsalis. Besides being the first African-American violinist to play Paganini’s beloved 300-year old violin, what do you consider the coup de grace of your career at this point?
Regina: I received an Honorary Doctorate in May 2006!
P.E.: That’s great. Congratulations! Where was it conferred?
Regina: At Albion College in Albion, Michigan. It was a total surprise.
P.E.: This is fantastic news. Congratulations Dr. Carter!! You have an upcoming appearance at the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl with Eddie Palmieri Afro-Caribbean Jazz All Stars and David Sanchez. What can we expect from this hot, HOT, ensemble? Will you be playing music from his repertoire or playing any music from yours?
Regina: No, I’m just going to be playing music from the recordI recorded two tunes with him. I probably won’t know until we get there, but I’m hoping that he’ll have me playing on some of the other tunes.
P.E.: Wonderful! Regina, I certainly appreciate the opportunity to speak to you about your new CD, your upcoming appearances and all of the great news in your life. Thanks so much for your great music and take care! We love you!
Regina: Thank you.
P.E.: Keep in touch with the violin master Dr. Regina Carter at ReginaCarter.Com.