Jazz CD Reviews

James Carter – Presenttense – Emarcy/Universal

A nice change for reedman James Carter

Published on August 7, 2008

James Carter – Presenttense – Emarcy/Universal

James Carter – Presenttense – Emarcy/Universal B0010985-02, 63:22 ****1/2:

(James Carter – flute, bass clarinet, soprano sax, tenor sax, baritone sax; Dwight Adams – trumpet, flugelhorn, D.D. Jackson – piano; Rodney Jones – guitar; James Genus – bass; Victor Lewis – drums; Eli Fountain – percussion)

As evidenced above by the wide range of instruments in James Carter’s arsenal, there is no doubt that he possesses an instrument for any mood. The issue that this brought up in past recordings was the fact that Carter was all over the charts, more a showman than a focused leader. This fact was noted by Michael Cuscuna, veteran producer and co-founder of Mosaic Records, the true jazz lovers’ dream company due to their comprehensive and lovingly-produced jazz box sets. Cuscuna presents Carter in a more traditional setting and they make a winning combination.

Both hard bop and blues are well represented in this session. Carter pushes the limits of straight ahead playing but keeps the swing feel alive. His choice of compositions is also wide ranging with three personally penned tunes as well as spreading around tracks from Gigi Gryce, Dave Burns, bop pianist Dodo Marmarosa, and even Django Reinhardt.

Burns’ Rapid Shave is great hard bop with punchy solos by trumpeter Adams dueling with Carter, and brilliant lightning fast runs by pianist, Jackson. Bro Dolphy may be the most “out” track but certainly appropriate as a dedication to Eric Dolphy, who was noted of course for a full exploration of the bass clarinet. Carter shows his expertise of this difficult-to-play instrument. It is a loving tribute and has some gorgeous sections.

Reinhardt’s ballad with Carter on soprano sax is exquisite – as sensual as listening to Johnny Hodges. James Genus on bass is featured here as well. Marmarosa’s signature composition, Dodo’s Bounce, is given an elegance with Carter’s flute, and is taken more in a cool setting than as bop-driven as composed by Dodo. Jones’s guitar and muted trumpet of Adams also add to the atmosphere.

Carter’s own compositions – in addition to the Dolphy tribute – are special as Sussa Nita has the same sensuousness as the Reinhardt ballad, this time taken at a bossa nova pace. Bossa JC has a true Brazilian flavor. The balance and discipline that Cuscuna has provided make this a great choice to experience the multi-faceted James Carter. Well done!

TrackList: Rapid Shave, Bro Dolphy, Pour Que Ma Vie Demeure, Sussa Nita, Song of Delilah, Dodo’s Bounce, Shadowy Sands, Hymn of the Orient, Bossa J.C., Tenderly

 – Jeff Krow




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