Newport Festival 2009

All About Jazz
Newport Festival 2009

When it came to fire, there was no taking a back seat to James Carter’s organ trio. Carter, who always flexes his considerable chops on any saxophone or instrument he can pick up, charged out of the gate on soprano with Goin’ Home. His longtime colleague Leonard King was funky and fleet behind the drums and gave Carter the right diving board off which to spring.

Gerard Gibbs is a smoking organist, and the three–very familiar and comfortable together–really charged ahead. Walkin’ the Dog gave the group a chance to sing the blues. Carter did it on baritone. He gets a gorgeous sound, made for the blues. Slurpy and sultry at first, he got more aggressive before handing things over to Gibbs, who did himself proud. It ended with one of Carter’s tour de force solo explosions where he seems to play the whole horn, screeching in the highest end, belching in the lowest.

Maybe he can’t help himself on those. But it’s still fun. Sussa Night gave Carter a chance to show his underrated ballad work, using great tone and phrasing and leaving space for the music to breathe.


Whether he’s playing tenor or soprano sax, shows off a sweet, sinuous tone; when he reinterprets Reinhardt’s classic Nuages with a bass sax, the muscular sound is distancing at first, but then it wraps itself around the listener like an anaconda.
-Christopher John Farley, TIME

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.