The Kennedy Center

James Carter Trio


James Carter, saxophonist, is a 33-year-old Detroit native who has emerged as one of the brightest stars in jazz. Rated by Rolling Stone as "a roaring virtuoso and saxophone scholar, and … a showman," Mr. Carter's range covers the gamut from jazz to swing, funky to classical. After his October 17, 18, and 19, 2002 premiere of Roberto Sierra's Concerto for Saxophones and Orchestra with conductor Neeme Jarvi and the Detroit Symphony, Mr. Carter was greeted with standing ovations and nightly demands to reprise the last movement of the work. Lawrence Johnson of The Detroit News called him "the complete musician, a technician with no apparent limits and a poet of deep sensibility, and Mark Stryker of the Detroit Free Press wrote that he is "a jazz saxophonist who plays with the unpredictability and vehemence of a volcano whose (improvisational) ideas burst like fireworks."

Born into a musical family and a group of friends with musical tastes ranging from B.B. King to jazz singers, and rock to funk, he learned to play the saxophone from local be-bop veteran Donald Washington, and spent his summers variously at the Blue Lake Arts Camp and Interlochen. His older brother Robert played in the funk band, Nature's Divine, which rehearsed in the Carter's basement. One of Divine's saxophone players, Charles Green, rented a room upstairs, and it was Green who helped the young Carter, who had previously tried out the drums, guitar and bass, choose his first alto saxophone, an instrument that remains in his unusual collection of rare horns.

In 1975, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis invited the 17-year-old saxophonist to play several dates with his quintet, and three years later he made his New York debut with Lester Bowie's New York Organ Ensemble. In New York he played and recorded with Julius Hemphill's saxophone sextet, the great vocalist Betty Carter, the classical singer Kathleen Battle, and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis's Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Other artists with whom he has performed include Herbie Hancock, Rodney Whitaker and Flip Phillips.

On his first recording, he made a showcase contribution to 1991's critically acclaimed Tough Young Tenors. In 1994, James Carter blew into the national spotlight as a solo artist with his debut CD, The Real QuietStorm, soon followed by the domestic release of JC on the Set, his 1993 solo album previously released only in Japan. Jurassic Classics and a second release, Conversin' with the Elders - a living musical tribute with jazz pioneers Buddy Tate, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Jamlet Bluiett, and Lester Bowie - followed in 1995. The next year, Mr. Carter made his screen debut (and contributed to the subsequent film soundtrack CD) in Robert Altman's Kansas City, playing the role of the legendary tenor saxophonist Ben Webster, with a cast that included pianist Cyrus Chestnut and drummer Victor Lewis.

His next recording, In Carterian Fashion, was centered on the sounds of the Hammond B3 Organ. Continuing in this convention-defying mode, his next two CDs featured guitars: the romantic swing CD Chasin' the Gypsy, inspired by Europe's legendary Romany jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, and the funky free jazz CD Layin' in the Cut, Mr. Carter's first recording with an all-electric band. The James Carter Organ Trio (Carter on saxes, Gerard Gibbs on organ, and Leonard King on drums) highlights his unique connection with the sounds of the Hammond B3 Organ in to such renowned spots as New York's Blue Note, and throughout the U.S. and Europe. He also appears at popular festivals including JazzFest Berlin 2000 in Germany. James Carter performed in the Terrace Theater on March 8, 1999, as a guest on Billy Taylor's Jazz at the Kennedy Center, a program that was later broadcast nationwide by NPR member stations.
James Carter Trio