Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

May/June 2014: Jimmy Greene

James Carter

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I may be a bassist, but the one thing I would gladly give a gig up to is the left hand of a Hammond B3 organist. Winnipeg jazz fans will experience this soul-shaking sound (for which I feel simultaneous love and envy) on June 21, when the James Carter Organ Trio, featuring organist Gerard Gibbs and drummer Leonard King, performs at the Rachel Browne Theatre.

The group is the main project of American saxophonist James Carter. Born in 1969 and raised in Detroit, he began playing saxophone at age 11. At 16, he was already making an impression on the jazz world, touring Europe with the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp faculty band and sitting in on gigs with Wynton Marsalis.

The mentorship of Donald Washington was crucial to his development at this time—through this relationship, Carter was exposed to a complete history of jazz, including free and avant-garde music. By 1990, Carter was living in New York and playing with Lester Bowie, as well as becoming a star in his own right. In his playing, you can hear all of these influences.

What Carter displays most in his music is the aspect of exploration that is central to jazz. His improvisations often take a turn into the unexpected, showing an avant-garde influence. Yet even when he ventures into extended techniques on multiple instruments, he is still rooted in rhythm and form. This is a testament to the heights that you can reach when you master your instrument, as he has done.

Come see it for yourself at the 2014 TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival. In addition to performing two sets in the evening, Carter will also present a masterclass in the afternoon as part of the TD Jazz Labs. See you there!

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