Monday, September 02, 2019

James Carter Organ Trio - Live From Newport Jazz (Blue Note, 2019)

It's been a long time since we have seen an album from James Carter, the phenomenally talented saxophonist who burst onto the scene with the young lions in the early 1990's. Despite some undeniably great records, he could never get a label to go to bat for him, and prior to this, had not released a record since 2011. Blue Note hedges their bets a little bit here, recording Carter live with his excellent road band, Gerard Gibbs on Hammond B3 organ and Alexander White on drums. They also have Carter play the music of Django Reinhardt, reprising one of his best albums, Chasin' the Gypsy. Despite all that it works quiet well, Gibbs and White are really quite talented and Carter is just as good as you remember him. “Le Manoir de Mes Reves” comes out as a gentle swing for deep toned saxophone and grooving organ, a long track with plenty of room to develop, Carter's tone brash and immediate and the drums crisp and supportive. The music picks up the pace with Carter blowing fiercely, along side long tones of organ reaching high into his horn's upper register for emphasis. He steps aside briefly around the halfway point, giving the organ and drums team some much deserved space for a grooving duo section, digging way deep and getting very soulful. When Carter returns, he trades pithy phrases with the organist, then the three work into a closing improvisation bringing things to a rousing conclusion. There is a respectful organ foundation on “Anouman,” which then drops into a funky groove with plenty of open space. Carter enters with a cutting tone, slicing through the thick keyboard and drums with aplomb, with the drummer adding a nice subtle rhythm, leading into a very full sounding organ and drums section. Carter returns, gentle at first playing some greasy soul-jazz funk, leading to some unaccompanied blowing that is far into the avant-garde area, teasing the audience with squeals and overblowing, then returning to a trio outro. “La Valse Des Nidlos” is steaming right out of the gate with waves of organ and percussion, developing into a fine drum solo that sets an excellent foundation for Carter to enter on soprano saxophone, playing light filigrees at first, getting an extraordinary sound from the instrument, and leading the group into a fast paced trio improvisation. Chopping up his sound, then splaying spirals and spraying colors and tipping his hat to”My Favorite Things” gets the audience on their feet. Sure he's a ham, but the guy can play anything, so why not? The final track of the album is “Fleche d'Or” with Gibbs laying down some grinding organ and White responding with flashy drumming, Carter zooms right along with them, playing a very funky sounding version that is undeniably exciting. The organist digs in deep, and the drummer provides a stellar rhythmic foundation as Carter lays out, returning to introduce the band and thank the audience and then lead the band to the conclusion of what was a very entertaining concert. Live From Newport Jazz - amazon.com

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