As impressive a musician as she was with Straight Ahead -- and she certainly was -- it has been as a leader, beginning with last year's "Rhythms of the Heart," that her brilliance has emerged. This tribute to her roots is stunning. The 10 tunes assembled reflect her hometown jazz and R&B influences. Thad Jones, Milt Jackson, Lucky Thompson and Barry Harris share space with Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, along with a few Regina Carter originals and Alex North's "Love Theme From Spartacus" and Harry Warren and Mack Gordon's "Chattanooga Choo Choo." The connection that the latter two have to Detroit isn't clear, though liner notes, which were unavailable at the time of this writing, may make that clear.
In addition to the songwriting of local heroes, Carter also enlisted the help of a couple of the most illustrious of Detroit jazzsters. Regina's second cousin James Carter, plays a gorgeous bass clarinet on Jones' "Don't Get Sassy," as well as tenor on "Spartacus." He's joined on both tunes by the most revered jazz man in town, Marcus Belgrave, on trumpet and flugelhorn, respectively. Both have their own charms, though Belgrave's flugelhorn is mesmerizing on "Spartacus," and the disc is almost worth the price of admission just to hear James carter blow the bass clarinet. Barry Harris also makes a strong showing on his own "Fukai Aijo" and Lucky Thompson's "Prey Loot," an upbeat Uptown piece on which Regina Carter shines, as well. Drummer Lewis Nash and guitarist Russell Malone also make appearances, with an especially impressive showing by Malone on "Chattanooga Choo Choo," a tune on which Carter seems to pay a very bouncy homage to Grappelli.
Carter's touring band -- Werner "Vana" Gierig (piano), Daryl Hall (bass), Alvester Garnett (drums); Mayra Casales (percussion) -- fill in the rest of the blanks superbly. Jazz violin enthusiasts will find much to appreciate here. Fans of straight ahead jazz, regardless of the lead instrument, will be equally well-served. This is simply an extraordinary piece of music.