What caused Carter's temporary paralysis was the passing of her mother and best friend Grace Carter. Regina writes: "After my mother made her transition last year, it was the darkest period of my life. When she passed, my joy for music seemed to have departed with her and I could hardly summon the motivation to play." Fortunately, "John Carter . . . helped me to see . . . this recording . . . would be a way to celebrate my mother and all that she had given to me. "
The resulting music is indeed celebratory, as well as of the highest quality. Carter chose material from the era her mother knew best--the 20s, 30s and 40s--and which, Carter reports, lifted her spirits. Next she, Clayton, Davis, Goldstein and Parrish adapted the songs to the sound of the group. Finally she made some inspired choices of special guests to help her interpret the arrangements.
Dee Dee Bridgewater contributes vocals, and some animated scatting to Bei Mir Bist Du Schon and This Can't Be Love, while the less well-known vocalist Carla Cook, featured on three titles, demonstrates that she deserves more attention. Paquito D'Rivera is a class act in any context and his virtuoso clarinet works adds to the joyous affect of the first thee arrangements, as well as the soulful St. Louis Blues, while Sentimental Journey is essentially a duet between D'Rivera and Carter, accompanied just by Parrish's bass. As for Gil Goldstein, here is another artist who should be better known. I wonder how many jazz lovers know that he has worked with Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius, Pat Martino, Billy Cobham, Lee Konitz, and the Gil Evans Orchestra, and written charts for Milton Nasciemento, Randy Brecker, Pat Metheny, Wallace Roney, David Sanborn, and Al Jarreau, winning a 2003 Grammy Award for his work with Michael Brecker. While Goldstein is best known as a pianist, the accordion was actually his first instrument, and he goes back to it from time to time. This is one of those times, and the instrument works beautifully in this context, blending with violin and clarinet on four songs and adding a gently mournful note to Goldstein's arrangement of I'll Be Seeing You .
Then there's Carter herself. Her earlier recordings have brought her many plaudits, including Down Beat magazine's praise for the ". . . inspired passion in her virtuosity." That virtuosity is on display here, with several fine solos, but overall it is sublimated to the seeming simplicity of the Swing Era material to produce a rare emotional directness throughout the recording. In paying tribute to her mother and the era she knew best, she artfully avoids the twin traps of cloying sentimentality or clichéd nostalgia. From the opening measures of the sprightly Anitra's Dance , from Edvard Grieg's Pier Gynt Suite , transcribed from the 1939 John Kirby arrangement by Xavier Davis, to the final strains of the poignant I'll Be Seeing You Again , Carter's work, as well as that of her top-flight rhythm section, is always just right.
"It was such a gift to be able to do this recording with these musicians," writes Carter. "They gave me absolute hope and love." She continues: "Recording this project was a life saver for me." It is a privilege for us to eavesdrop on the session.