“We really wanted to show the connections between the gritty, hard-edged music we grew up hearing in Detroit and that flair and edge you get from Django’s music.”
– James Carter
“To hear saxophonist James Carter is to be blown away,” wrote The Washington Post, and from the kickoff cut of his “Live From Newport Jazz” album, you get the gist on a big brass platter. Swinging beat builds to burly solo and he squeezes, grinds and growls sounds out of his horn like you never heard before – with some mind-bending circular breathing thrown in for good measure. It’s soulful style and technical virtuosity in perfect balance.
Growing up in a musical family in Detroit, James caught the sax bug early when he attended a World Saxophone Quartet concert. “To watch four saxophonists individually and collectively, literally shred the stage,” he says, “it sparked a furnace inside of me that won’t quit to this day.” The jazz prodigy worked hard, earned himself a spot on stage with Wynton Marsalis at age 17, and by 23 had his first album released. Over the ensuing years, he built a reputation as one of the most powerful and charismatic players on the scene, releasing 18 albums, collaborating with legendary artists, and winning several DownBeat critics and reader’s choice awards for Best Baritone Sax Player.
On “Live From Newport Jazz,” James and his fellow Detroiters, Gerard Gibbs on Hammond B-3 and Alex White on drums, reinvent the work of gypsy jazz guitar legend Django Reinhardt within an organ trio setting. Modern rhythms and riffs add urban punch, and the spare dynamics of the band allow space for impressive soloing. At heart, the funky interplay of sax and B-3 makes delicious beer out of Reinhardt’s champagne compositions, so the album plays like a hot summer night on the town until dawn. The crowd at Newport Jazz certainly felt it. You will, too. “It’s all ear-catching,” James says. “You can’t help but be sucked into and become part of Django’s music.”