Friday, February 8, 2013

Performance Note: James Carter Organ Trio

I caught a performance of the James Carter Organ Trio last night in Baton Rouge, LA.  Holy cow.  This was basically a concert of soul/gospel/rhythm & blues music played by three top-flight jazz musicians.  I felt a bit like I was transported to a heavenly, jazz-infused Apollo Theater.  The music was the essence of soulful, with Carter just wailing away on tenor, soprano, and alto saxophones, Gerard Gibbs providing a musical cushion on the organ, and drummer Leonard King, Jr., producing sophisticated, driving, danceable, swinging rhythms. 

Carter’s level of virtuosity is so high that the saxophone has become more of a sound machine in his hands than a woodwind instrument.  He pushes the saxophone to its limits and then some, all without electronic enhancements, still retaining the instrument’s inherent vocal and emotional qualities, mixing in plenty of seductive whispering along with his wailing, and hitting everything in between.  At one point, when he was playing the soprano sax, I thought that this is how Grover Washington, Jr., would have played if he practiced more.  (And I really like Grover Washington, Jr.) 

There is a recent recording of the James Carter Organ Trio, “At the Crossroads,” which I haven’t heard, so I don’t know how this type of music transfers to a recorded format.  But if you have an opportunity to see this group live, if you have any affinity for rhythm & blues or stellar jazz saxophone playing, you’d be making a big mistake to miss them.  (The group’s schedule is posted here.  A special “heads-up” to folks in Syracuse, Roanoke, and St. Louis, though any AJS readers in Tokyo, Perth, and Jakarta are given a call-to-attention as well.)

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