REGINA CARTER "SOUTHERN COMFORT"
Review by Bridgid Brousseau
“The true mission of the violin is to imitate the accents of the human voice, a noble mission that has earned for the violin the glory of being called the king of instruments.” - Charles-Auguste de Beriot-
With the violin being the “king of instruments,” Regina Carter is one of our reigning queens!The oldest documented violin to have four strings, like the modern violin, is supposed to have been constructed in 1555, but the exact date is unknown.
Legend has it that Jazz violinist Regina Carter does not reveal her age but it seems this violin virtuoso has the proven skills and talent of one that has been playing since that date. It is no wonder that she was awarded a coveted 2006 MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellowship and has since evolved into one of the foremost violinists of her time.
Since releasing her first solo album, self-titled, “Regina Carter” in 1995, she has released eight albums including her latest release of “Southern Comfort.”Regina Carter is a master of improvisational jazz. She encompasses all of the sounds, styles and influences on “Southern Comfort” including Classical, Jazz, Gospel, R&B, Soul, Swing, Bebop, Folk and even Rock ‘n’ Roll. She maintains the historically classical style of the violin while intertwining her own signature finesse and African roots.
This all-encompassing embodiment of skills is also attributed to Regina’s extensive musical upbringing and background that includes having accompanied performers such as Wynton Marsalis, Aretha Franklin, Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige, Billy Joel, and Dolly Parton. She also played with Max Roach and Oliver Lake, as well as being in the String Trio of New York.
The violin is one of the most difficult instruments to master. Impressionism was traditionally used to describe visual art. The term also describes music and cannot describe Regina Carter more accurately with her diligent use of moods, exotic scales, textures, emotions and colorful instrumentation.In the hands of a good player, the violin is extremely agile. Regina Carter executes every technical aspect of the violin with seeming ease.
From blue notes, trills, and accidentals, to natural and artificial harmonics Regina Carter has it covered. She masterfully displays her expertise utilizing every possible articulation with precision. She exercises various methods of attack producing infinite articulations. She transitions from being very delicate to sudden and forceful. She does it all!
This is the type of CD that any listener can sit back relax, escape and enjoy. I got lost in it.“EASY” is a quick, lively, fast tempo that increases in expression like that of an intense drama building and coming to a swift quick conclusion. The cymbals provide an awesome crescendo in the beginning. “Easy is played with increasing animation, liveliness, and expression. It has a folk music feel to it.
Regina’s bowing techniques are masterful.“It Ain’t Me Babe” caught me pleasantly off guard. It starts out as a funkier track with the guitar but the vocals provide for a spiritual feel. It has catchy key changes and Regina accentuates the vocals in just the right places to tie it all together. At the end there are just the percussion and vocals to close it out which makes for a thought provoking ending. It is a short song, yet very powerful.
While “Paying Double” starts off with a rock vibe it also has a spiritual message. This is what I love about Regina Carter. I cannot anticipate where the tune is going as with some artists. This track delivers just what the title implies. It is reminiscent of a sophisticated version of “dueling banjoes.” With the battle being between a rocking guitar and violin. The battle continues until the smooth, religious vocals intervene. “Sugar Mama” and “Somethin Else have country feels to them. “Sugar Mama” is the slowest melody on the album and has a country ballad feel to it.
Regina exhibits her control and use of vibrato on this one. There is great harmony as well. In technical violin terms this would be described as “adagio.” It has a slow, leisurely tempo. Both of the songs are played with high emotion, sweetly, softly and gently.“Need My Baby” and “Netti, Netti” are my two favorite picks on “Southern Comfort.” It’s a non-stop ride. With the cello and percussion the listener is taken on a ride with variation in pace. There is a crescendo in just the right place. There is so much going on with just the right combinations. This is an exciting track. I listened to it several times and would hear something new each time.
Regina seems to effortlessly execute rapid and difficult sequences of notes throughout the entire track. The percussion is awesome on this one. I just love this song! “NETTI, NETTI” has a sweet, southern swag. It starts with two riffs that give the song two different styles yet the melody is clear. It has impeccable timing and sentiment with a funky pace and feel . Great key changes as well. This is an exciting piece played in a lively, spirited manner.
I have often asked Jazz artists if the lyrics or the title to the song come first. The answer has always varied. I have yet to determine if knowing the title of the songs impacts the way in which I listen to it. In other words, is knowledge of the title before the song starts like knowing the answer to a question before it is asked? This is how I felt about “Walking by Myself.” This is exactly the vision this track created. Reflecting, I actually felt sad and alone as strange as that may read. I needed a “pick me up” after this one. Mission accomplished Regina Carter! Where’s my bottle of Southern Comfort? I would like to know where the inspiration behind this solemn track comes from. It is beautifully expressed. I love it.
“Walking By Myself” is played very passionately and with intense emotion and feeling.“Train Time” feels just like a train ride with the bass as the locomotive engineer. It is a ride with a different scene to behold at every turn that one never wants to end but you feel it coming to a nice, smooth halt. All aboard! “Found a New Love” This song has no percussion and does not need it because Regina keeps her own pace.
This song is very soulful and heartfelt. It jams with an accentuated guitar solo. There is an awesome harmony between violin and guitar. It is obvious that Regina is feeling this one because the dynamic level is changed so instantaneously with clear intention.
“Found a New Love” is filled with texture. “Same Old Blues” has a consistent beat throughout with very smooth guitar accompaniment. The shift in the notes is hard and deliberate. This song is ornamental with fantastic rhythmic emphasis and accentuation. This is a powerful song. I enjoyed the key changes that were performed throughout with a smooth, flowing ease.
“Southern Comfort” is indisputable proof that Regina Carter has complete mastery of over every aspect of the violin. As a fan of her music and accomplishments I await in great anticipation of what her future albums will bring.
Regina Carter has unmatched skills, style and talent. She exemplifies the consummate professional. There is nothing more beautiful to behold than a musical artist in motion. One does not have to be an ethnomusicologist to know that Regina Carter has a very long successful musical path ahead of her with the unabashed freedom, skills and creativity to continue to be a major contributor to a tradition to be passed on for many musical generations to come.
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Woodshed Jazz Magazine
Review by: Bridgid Brousseau
GREGORY PORTER " Liquid Spirit" Record Label: Blue Note Records (Universal)
“Unreroute the river, let the damned water be, there’s some people down the river that’s thirsty, so let the “Liquid Spirit” free.” ~Gregory Porter~
On September 17, 2013 “Liquid Spirit” will be flowing through all of us. “Liquid Spirit” will be Gregory Porter’s debut release with Blue Note Records. Gregory has previously released two indie albums which garnered him to Grammy nominations. “Liquid Spirit” should be his third.
Gregory Porter sings beautifully with deep, heart felt emotion. He is an amazing storyteller and the music pours out of his soul genuinely and effortlessly. I found myself lying down with my eyes closed listening, pondering, reflecting and absorbing all that “Liquid Spirit” brings. Gregory Porter is taking a stand! I proudly profess that I am a jazz music junkie and I have not heard a voice like that of Gregory Porter in a very long time. I could go on and on about each song but I feel as though I would be giving away the complete plot and storyline like that of a long awaited movie and spoil it for Gregory Porter fans.
What I found to be most unique about this album is that Gregory stands alone vocally. There are no background vocals and it works! There are a total of 14 songs for the audience to enjoy, so I have exercised constraint and limited it to my hard to choose personal favorites. Don’t let his baby faced smile and dimples fool you! His baritone voice is as hearty and bold as it is pristine. There is nothing forced or superfluous about it. Gregory Porter is blessed with an extraordinary gift.
Gregory retains the same core musicians on “Liquid Spirit” that accompanied him on his previous two releases; pianist and musical director Chip Crawford, drummer Emanuel Harrold, bassist Aaron James, saxophonist Yosuke Sato, tenor saxophonist Tivon Pennicott, trumpeter Curtis Taylor and organist Glenn Patshcha. What I love most about this album is that the instrumentals perfectly accentuate the vocals. This album is not upstaged by an overkill of instrumentals like that of many albums that I have listened to that distract too much from the artist’s vocals.
The funkier songs like “Liquid Spirit” combine the spiritual, accentuated with the rhythmic hand clapping towards the end with a side of gospel. “Unreroute the river, let the damned water be, there’s some people down the river that’s thirsty, so let the “Liquid Spirit” free.” This song provides and warning and speaks to man’s destruction of our natural habitant and the devastation on it’s people. “Water Under Bridges“ speaks to the heartbreak that everyone of us has been the unfortunate recipient of. The lyrics paint so vividly the emotions we all go through with such difficulty yet describes how ironically others think we should so easily get over it.
“Water Under Bridges” is a poignantly delivered song. Gregory holds nothing back on “Musical Genocide”. He stands strong with his opinion and view on the directions that today’s music has taken. He refuses to conform to the direction, tone and inclination that many artists have to follow the growing trend, compromise themselves and follow rather than lead. He speaks of what music currently is, has historically been about, how it should remain and his refusal to partake. Kudos to you Gregory Porter!
This album also provides a musical balance with slow jams too. “Wolfcry“ speaks of a broken hearted woman who is emotionally rescued. and comforted by a sincerely swooning Porter. The piano also softly compliments and accents these beautiful ballads on “Hey Laura” and “I fall in Love Too Easily.” “Free“ is inspiring and powerfully delivered. Often times the title of the song can be deceiving in that the lyrics don’t totally vibe.
This is not so with “Free!” Porter speaks of the struggles of survival growing up and the sacrifices of his mother and father to provide and pave the way for a better life for their children. “So that I could be young and free, daddy made a way for me.” Momma did just the same, dropping love just like rain.” “Free!” I can feel Porter reliving his heart felt gratitude for his beloved mother and father and what they sacrificed for him. Although both of his parents have passed away, oh, how proud they would be of the man we are all blessed to know as a musician. Through his lyrics he has generously shared and we are also blessed to know his spirit.
“Brown Grass” has a beautiful melody with a message we should all heed. This song describes the mistake we all have made of being on one side of this coin of leaving someone we loved for another we think is better. This is a message to those who have thought the grass would be greener on the other side only to discover that you are wrong. The grass not only failed to be greener but turned out to be “Brown Grass.” If you heed these lyrics, “Brown Grass” will make you think twice before making that mistake. As sad as it is to relate, I found myself repeatedly listening to this song because the music and melody are so beautiful. Well done with the piano and an ideal sprinkling of percussion.
The “In Crowd” we all know was originally done by Dobie Gray and again by Ramsey Lewis. When an artist is going to remake a classic such as this, he or she should be confidently prepared to remake it as good if not better. Gregory Porter succeeds. It’s got the funk and the spunk of the instrumentals to back it up. It demonstrates the Gregory Porter’s style that his fans have already become accustomed to. “Movin” is an upbeat jam that provides inspiration and comfort in knowing that in various life stages and challenges that we are not alone and that someone, somewhere can empathize with what we are feeling and going through. “Movin” is one such song.
I had the rare pleasure of interviewing Gregory Porter after his stellar performance at the 2013 Playboy Jazz Festival. “No Love Dying” is the first song on the album. I will use its’ message as my concluding words for the album “Liquid Spirit.” It seems that all artists who are sympathetic to the human plight include what is considered an anthem on their albums. On “No Love Dying,” Gregory speaks to the human spirit and he does so with aplomb. He leads by example and calls for the empathy, sacrifice and reaching out to our fellow man.
Although Gregory speaks solely for himself within the lyrics, his compelling message is clearly an adamant statement and plea imploring humanity to step up and be responsible by doing that which is innately in us all to do. “No Love Dying,” is my personal favorite on this album. The story Gregory shares is one that we can all take with us if we just listen and learn. We all have our struggles and we all have a story to tell. Persevere, transcend and despite all love shall remain.
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