July 10, 2024

Regina Carter Regina Carter
Motor City Moments
(Verve – 2000)
by John Barrett

She comes a place loaded with jazz tradition, on an instrument you don’t associate with the city. Her tribute is wonderfully thorough: songs composed by Motown’s finest, in a band with many such folks. They start with Thad Jones’ “Don’t Git Sassy” – sassy it is, thanks to Regina’s glissando. Following her solo is another squeak; James Carter starts like a sax, then burbles low on his bass clarinet. Her violin strolls “For Someone I Love”, with a ballroom formality – then it explodes with Latin fire. Daryl Hall has a great bowed bass; Regina plucks a guitar-like solo. She sobs “Forever February”, a cold ballad – next she’s energetic, waving strength on Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground”. The pace is a leisurely blues, while the mood is tribal; suddenly it fades to eerie stillness. Like the city itself, the album is many things and defies classification. So does Regina.

“Spartacus” comes as a breeze: cool and calm, she lets the melody work its sweet magic. (The best version I’ve heard since Yusef Lateef, who also called Detroit home.) Marcus Belgrave adds a spectral flugelhorn; Lateef’s old bandmate Barry harris drops by, waxing sweet on his “Fukai Aijo”. The violin swings like Grappelli, very sleek and very lovely. The resemblance grows on “Chattanooga Choo Choo”, where she’s joined by the guitar of Russell Malone. She quotes “Beginning to See the Light”, “Shortnin’ Bread” – absolutely stunning. Better yet is “Up South” – Malone twangs a single-string blues, stomps his feet, and she offers some country fiddle. It’s a different sound, from a different kind of player – you can tell that “Regina” means “queen”.

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