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Detroit-born James Carter burst on the New York jazz scene in the early 1990s and quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with on the tenor saxophone and a host of other reed instruments. A technically advanced player with more than a touch of hip hop swagger, Carter stood apart from fellow Neo-traditionalist newcomers both with his superior chops and his flair for showmanship.
Present Tense, produced by the legendary Michael Cuscuna, is really a look back at a wide swath of jazz history. Joined by a fine post-bop band (featuring, among others, trumpeter Dwight Adams, veteran drummer Victor Lewis and the underrated Don Pullen-inspired pianist DD Jackson), Carter tackles a broad range of jazz styles on five different instruments, all of which he plays at a supremely high level.
Carter performs the opening bebop number, "Rapid Shave," for example, on baritone sax, before switching to bass clarinet for "Bro. Dolphy," a free-ish tribute to the late Eric Dolphy, himself a master of the instrument. He plays tenor on the originals "Bossa J.C." and "Sussa Nita," a tango of sorts inspired by a dream Carter had about Billie Holiday. He also plays soprano sax on several tunes, including Django Reinhardt's lovely "Pour Ma Vie Demeure," and even turns in an exquisite performance on flute on "Dodo's Bounce," by early bop pianist Dodo Marmarosa.
Whatever instrument he's playing, Carter proves himself an artist of exceptional, often breathtaking, skill who approaches the jazz tradition with a modern sensibility and fresh ideas.
Track Listing: Rapid Shave; Bro. Dolphy; Pour Que Ma Vie Demeure; Sussa Nita; Song of Delilah; Dodo's Bounce; Shadowy Sands; Hymn of the Orient; Bossa J.C.; Tenderly.
Personnel: James Carter: flute, bass clarinet, soprano sax, tenor sax, baritone sax; Dwight Adams: trumpet-flugelhorn; D.D. Jackson: piano; James Genus: bass; Victor Lewis: drums; Rodney Jones: guitar; Eli Fountain: percussion.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.