James Carter Biography

James Carter is a powerhouse musician and one of the most admired saxophonists of his generation, garnering plaudits for his role in helping to propel jazz full tilt into the future over the past twenty-five years. His music is fueled by deep respect and intimate knowledge of the jazz tradition.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1969, James Carter began playing saxophone at age 11, first recorded with a Detroit student ensemble in 1986 and, by 1991, had recorded with legendary trumpeter Lester Bowie on The Organizer and contributed to the 1991 collection The Tough Young Tenors. Mastering a family of reed instruments, from sopranino to contrabass saxophones to contrabass and bass clarinets, James Carter mesmerized the jazz world after arriving in New York City in 1988 to play under the auspices of Lester Bowie.

His debut recording, JC On The Set, released in Japan when Carter was a mere 23 years old, heralded the arrival of a significant and powerful new musical force in jazz.

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There were passages in the program, especially during pieces such as Joe Henderson’s “Recorda Me,” in which Carter played with a surprisingly soft and tender sound, his improvisations filled with subtle melodic paraphrases. At other times, he added an appealing, burry edge to his tone—the result calling up images, on soprano saxophone, of Sidney Bechet.

The music, commissioned by the DSO and written for Carter, shows off his brilliant technical command of the tenor and soprano saxes and carves out space for improvisation in which his ideas burst like fireworks.