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Artist Profiles

Kent Carter

By Published: August 13, 2004
In stark contrast to his work with Lacy, which, though at times seemingly "free" was rather structured, Carter was hired for the bass chair in John Stevens' Spontaneous Music Ensemble. The SME was a free music group in which "the conception was no conception. His thing was to sit down and make music with no clichés, just through interaction and listening. So this sound developed which was quite exciting once it got going. It wasn't so easy at first because you didn't have anything to hold onto." Rather than playing from the conception of a loose tune or at least a familiar pace, the SME taught the improviser to just "play" gradually letting the music happen as it progressed. Playing for the ensemble rather than the self is central to Carter's philosophy. Choosing to eschew solo playing other than for the good of working on his own string conception, the goal comes to be "working for the collective so that you make other people sound good, and you sound good yourself. But the most important thing is to make everything around you as beautiful as possible. Out of that, you find your voice. Soloing - I'm not a great soloist. Lacy developed that beautifully, but I've done some solos and I find it very difficult." Solo and overdubbed bass and cello work makes up most of Beauvais Cathedral , his 1974 Emanem effort, a home-recorded investigation of dense, turgid drones and lithe pizzicato that serves as a window on his process. At present, string investigation for Carter has gone beyond one-man process pieces to a cooperative string trio, currently featuring violinist Albrecht Maurer and violist Katrin Mickiwicz (who had replaced wizard Portuguese violinist Carlos Zingaro).

It is probably a moot point to wonder whether Kent Carter would have found the truly "open music" had he stayed in the US. A cutthroat scene of nervous energy-music is a far cry from the old-world patience that begets studied movements. Regardless of the accuracy of such stereotypes, it is that vital synthesis of European and American mettles that produces the most interesting music of the jazz canon.

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