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Jazz - Released February 21, 1995 | Atlantic Jazz

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Jazz - Released May 26, 2000 | Atlantic Jazz

James Carter celebrated 2000 by putting out two vastly different albums at the same time, an amazing concession from a major label for a jazz artist who doesn't sell in Kenny G-like proportions. Chasin' the Gypsy, as you might guess, is an homage to Django Reinhardt, whose music Carter used to dig on Detroit radio when he was a teenager, but Carter doesn't take the predictable reverent path in paying his respects. He rummages through his closet and pulls out a rarely used bass saxophone on three cuts -- the bumpy sounds are often comic yet a comfortable fit for his antic style -- and even tries out an F mezzo sax on the exotically relaxed "Oriental Shuffle." Back on tenor, Carter's slippery playing often doesn't hesitate to approach the outside; he keeps his sense of humor and his individual quirks intact. Most of the tunes are Django's yet the one that comes closest to evoking the frantic Hot Club Quintette drive is Carter's own title track, a madcap chase indeed with Carter on wild soprano sax this time. A nostalgic accordion underpins the tango-like "Nuages" á la Piazzolla; violinist Regina Carter provides the Stephane Grappelli-like foil on a few tracks (she does all right but could be a bit looser); and Jay Berliner and Romero Lubambo occasionally summon the ghost of Django with their respectively steel and nylon-stringed solo and rhythm guitar work. Mostly, this is a delightful departure for Carter, though probably destined to be a one-off excursion. ~ Richard S. Ginell
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Jazz - Released August 30, 2019 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - Released November 11, 2003 | Columbia

Following up his 2000 tribute to guitarist Django Reinhardt, Chasin' the Gypsy, saxophonist James Carter pays homage to iconic jazz singer Billie Holiday on Gardenias for Lady Day. Perhaps never before has the jazz iconoclast balanced so perfectly his "big top" avant-garde leanings with his more pinstriped traditionalist aesthetic. This is a beautiful album that revels as much in classic melody as it does in Carter's most torrid saxophone "skronk." Although the album largely succeeds on Carter's virtuosic performance, it gains most of its character from the deft and unpredictable orchestral arrangements of Greg Cohen and fellow Detroiter Cassius Richmond. In particular, Richmond brings a cinematic quality to the album with his treatments of "Sunset," "I Wonder Where Our Love Is Gone," and "Gloria" that breathe and swell, rubbing dramatically against Carter's muscular sound. Similarly, Cohen -- who has worked with such N.Y.C. downtown scenesters as John Zorn, David Byrne, and Tom Waits -- brings a quirky and epic quality to his tracks. Featuring a very Nina Simone-esque performance by vocalist Miche Braden, Holiday's most famous number, "Strange Fruit," is magnified by Cohen into a brooding film noir that ultimately descends into an apocalyptic barrage of screams and wails, with Carter and Braden manifesting all the anguish and anger the song implies. It is unclear if the orchestra and band recorded at the same time, but even if they did not, Carter's stellar rhythm section featuring pianist John Hicks, drummer Victor Lewis, and bassist Peter Washington lends an organic quality to the proceedings that feels natural and lithe. Continuing to display a unique and singular vision, Carter has crafted a fittingly urbane, elegant, and unnerving album that celebrates both Holiday's haunting spirituality and earthy sexuality. ~ Matt Collar
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Jazz - Released May 31, 1996 | Atlantic Jazz

The brilliant saxophonist James Carter and his quartet (which also includes pianist Craig Taborn, bassist Jaribu Shahid and drummer Tani Tabbal) welcome some of Carter's musical heroes as guests throughout Conversin' with the Elders. Carter matches wits with the eccentric trumpeter Lester Bowie on "Freereggaehibop" and the often-hilarious "Atitled Valse"; he also features the legendary (but rarely recorded) Detroit altoist Larry Smith on "Parker's Mood," showcases Count Basie veterans Harry "Sweets" Edison and Buddy Tate on two swing standards apiece (Tate's work on clarinet during "Blue Creek" is memorable), and interacts with baritonist Hamiet Bluiett on "Naima" and an Anthony Braxton march. Switching between tenor, alto, baritone and bass clarinet, Carter makes each of his guests feel at home while pushing them to stretch themselves. A consistently colorful and generally swing-oriented set. ~ Scott Yanow
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Jazz - Released May 26, 2000 | Rhino Atlantic

The second of James Carter's pair of 2000 releases shifts wildly, and perhaps trendily, toward electric funk, as the title cut proclaims within seconds. It's really a loose, collective electric jam session with all of the risks, occasional hot streaks, and passages of torpor that the term implies. Oddly enough, the tracks that really make it are those that are credited to only one composer: guitarist Jef Lee Johnson's stimulating Prime Time-like melee, "Terminal 8," that gathers momentum like a freight train; Carter's cooking "There's a Puddle" that explodes into a freeform burst on cue at the end; and Carter's "GP." The collectively credited pieces are the ones that tend to go nowhere, often desperately in need of editing or clear direction. At all times, though, Carter is a freewheeling dynamo on soprano and tenor saxes, not afraid to reach wildly to the outside even when the funk backgrounds are merely mild mannered. Carter draws from the New York City avant-garde scene for help: Marc Ribot is the other electric guitarist, Jamaaladeen Tacuma plays bass, and the volatile drummer G. Calvin Weston tries with partial success to mix things up. Carter says that he intends to pursue this direction in the future -- with hopefully less diffuse results. ~ Richard S. Ginell
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Jazz - Released May 17, 2009 | Atlantic Records

James Carter is the Arturo Sandoval of the reeds, a remarkable virtuoso who can seemingly do anything he wants on his horns. It is just a matter of passing time and accomplishments accumulating before Carter is thought of as one of the all-time greats. This particular CD, In Carterian Fashion, differs from his earlier ones in that Carter (who switches between tenor, soprano and baritone sax, and bass clarinet) is joined by one of three organists (Henry Butler, Cyrus Chestnut and his regular pianist Craig Taborn) instead of piano, which of course changes the sound of the ensembles. However, only a few of the songs come across as Jimmy Smith-style soul-jazz. Carter stretches from bluesy tunes to Don Byas' swinging mid-'40s romp "Don's Idea," to some avant-garde explorations, and a few strong hints at Rahsaan Roland Kirk (particularly on the soprano feature "Trouble in the World") and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis. Trumpeter Dwight Adams sounds fine during his four appearances, particularly when trading off with Carter on "Don's Idea," and altoist Cassius Richmond (who is on three of the trumpet pieces) is also excellent. However, the dominant voice throughout is James Carter's, who in general is a little more restrained, which makes his fiery explosions and colorful tonal distortions really stand out. Recommended. ~ Scott Yanow
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2011 | Universal Music Group International

Somewhat of a departure from the post-bop jazz he is known for, saxophonist James Carter's 2011 release Caribbean Rhapsody features several orchestral collaborations with classical composer Roberto Sierra. Featuring the newly minted title piece, the album also includes the composition "Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra," which originally premiered in Detroit in 2002. Produced by Michael Cuscuna, the album also includes a guest appearance by Carter's cousin Regina Carter on violin as well as cellist Akua Davis, whose string quintet is featured on "Caribbean Rhapsody." As the centerpiece of the album, "Caribbean Rhapsody" is conceptualized around Sierra's life growing up in Puerto Rico and the various styles of music he encountered, from bolero to Latin jazz and salsa. Elsewhere, Carter leads the ensemble through the frenetic, angular, and somewhat noir-ish leadoff track, "Ritmico"; gets several ruminative and lyrical saxophone interludes; and then dives headlong through the cinematic boogie-woogie-inflected piece "Playful -- Fast (With Swing)." A bold, adventurous performer with a titanic facility on the saxophone, Carter is perfectly suited for performing with large ensembles, and the orchestrations here are gorgeously rendered landscapes for Carter to play against. In fact, composer Sierra purposely left certain cadenzas and other areas of the scores on Caribbean Rhapsody open for Carter to improvise, and the results are nothing short of thrilling. ~ Matt Collar
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Jazz - Released May 17, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Records

Between 1995 and 2004, Detroit saxophonist James Carter released several conceptual discs: a salute to Django Reinhardt (Chasin' the Gypsy), electric-era Miles Davis (Layin' in the Cut), jazz ballads (Real Quiet Storm), and a lush Billie Holiday tribute (Gardenias for Lady Day). With the release of each disc, the unavoidable question remained: would Carter ever put out another straight-ahead session in the vein of his early-'90s recordings JC on the Set and Jurassic Classics? Happily, Live at Baker's Keyboard Lounge makes up for lost time. Carter and an amazing array of musicians took flight for three nights in June 2001 at Baker's in Detroit, featuring guest appearances by David Murray and Johnny Griffin alongside fellow Motor City natives Franz Jackson, Kenny Cox, Dwight Adams, Larry Smith, and Gerard Gibbs. On this set Carter frequently switches reeds, easily juggling tenor, soprano, and baritone saxophones, while his rock-solid rhythm section of bassist Ralphe Armstrong and the split drumming duties of Leonard King and the late Funk Brother Richard "Pistol" Allen (who passed away in 2002) keep the music simmering until the heat rises once again. Carter's choice of cover material is impeccable and well balanced. Instead of lazily strolling through the same old tried and true standards and songbooks, Carter and associates re-ignite tunes from the pen of Oscar Pettiford ("Tricotism"), Jimmy Forrest ("Soul Street"), Eddie Harris ("Freedom Jazz Dance"), and Don Byas ("Free and Easy"), before slowing the tempo on "I Can't Get Started," "Low Flame," and "Sack Full of Dreams," culminating with the four-tenor blowout of George Duvivier's "Foot Pattin'." The only time the train jumps the tracks is during "Soul Street." Organist Gibbs uses a synthesized, sampled vocal section that sounds like a mechanical Swingle Singers. The technology itself may be intriguing, but the results are completely out of place in this context. Live at Baker's Keyboard Lounge finds Carter cutting loose like a musician who's been conceptually sidetracked long enough. This is a back to basics blowing session and concepts be damned! ~ Al Campbell
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2008 | Universal Music Group International

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Miscellaneous - Released August 31, 2018 | We Are Diamond

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Dance - Released March 1, 2019 | We Are Diamond

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Jazz - Released August 30, 2019 | Blue Note Records

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Miscellaneous - Released March 9, 2018 | We Are Diamond

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Miscellaneous - Released April 21, 2017 | We Are Diamond

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Jazz - Released August 2, 2019 | Blue Note Records

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Miscellaneous - Released May 4, 2018 | We Are Diamond

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Jazz - Released August 2, 2019 | Blue Note Records

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House - Released May 10, 2019 | We Are Diamond

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Pop - Released August 12, 2019 | Moonquake