James Carter: Gardenias for Lady Day (2003)
It is difficult to gauge exactly how much of Holiday's essence is actually captured here. Focusing primarily on Carter's wide-ranging abilities, Gardenias For Lady Day celebrates a bygone era in jazz, grandiose in scale, capable of capturing any and every emotion. "Gloria," the Don Byas' tune, is given an elegant, evocative string arrangement, with Carter's fluid tenor work pacing a nostalgic dance. "I'm In a Low Down Groove" finds Carter playing baritone, tenor, and F mezzo saxophones with such distinction on each that the tune never becomes a tepid showcase for his talents. Instead, each horn provides a voice, its own wail, its own cry, and its own interpretation of the blues. On "Strange Fruit," the most daring and challenging piece on the album, the images are ghastly, as Miche Braden provides the vocals to a horrific chapter in American history.
Presented in a hybrid SACD format, the sound on Gardenias for Lady Day is exceptionally clear, allowing the listener to better appreciate Carter as he escorts a spiritual, graceful beauty that, on second thought, merges with Billie Holiday.
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Track Listing: Here
Personnel: James Carter- saxophones, bass and contrabass clarinets; John Hicks- piano; Peter Washington- bass; Victor Lewisdrums; Myung Hi Kim, Ann Kim, Lisa Kim, Sarah Kim, Sharon Park, Sharon Yamada- violins; Rob Rinehart, Tom Rosenthalviola; Jeanne LeBlanc, Bruce Wang, Sarah Seiver, Eileen Moon, Mina Smith, Elizabeth Dyson- cello; Phil Myers, Erik RalsekFrench horn; Miche Braden- vocals
Record Label: Columbia Records