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Encore! Encore!

James Carter is sort of a freak of nature. He can make his saxophone yell, squawk, roll over, sit-up, and emit flames. Saturday night, Carter had to remind himself during a performance with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) that he wasn’t playing at a neighborhood club where he could let his imagination roam. Carter did an encore performance of composer Roberto Sierra’s piece Concerto For Saxophones , which premiered successfully at the DSO last year. Carter returned for three more performances.

Sierra cut Concerto for Saxophonist to two movements. Initially, the presentation ran over an hour. This year it was 25 minutes. But Carter contained himself. The first movement was restive. Carter played tenderly. The second had elements of the blue, and some boogie-woogie, which allowed Carter room to explore. He made his horns do a few circus feats, but he didn’t venture too far. Arresting and shocking summed of his performance. Shocking because he didn’t embark on any protracted improvisational flights.

Last year, for example, by the second movement, Carter had the orchestra cooking like they were participating in a Wednesday night jam session at the legendary Baker’s Keyboard Lounge. In fact, it looked as if Neeme Jarvi, the DSO conductor, was going to do the "Lindy Hop". Carter can bring out the wild streak in any musician that shares the bandstand with him.

To understand the improvisational depths that he’s willing to travel, you have to experience him live. (Two years ago, I saw Carter at a jam session at Bakers Keyboard Lounge. He was blowing so hard that the keys were flying off his tenor saxophone.) Or listen to any of his seven recordings, particularly JC On The Set , Jurassic Classics, The Real Quiet Storm and In Carterian Fashion . On each he demonstrated his versatility.

At times, when Carter is improvising it appears he is speaking a language only he can comprehend. Some may accuse him of self-indulgence. But, Carter functions on a different frequency than other saxophonists.

For this return engagement, however, Carter was more respectful and conservative.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: James Carter
  • Concert Date: 10/18/2003
  • Subtitle: James Carter contained himself during performance of Concerto for Saxophones
  • Venue: Orchestra Hall
  • City State Country: Detroit, MI
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