Music Review: James Carter – Caribbean Rhapsody

Caribbean Rhapsody (Emarcy Records), which features saxophone virtuoso James Carter, is the culmination of a decade-long collaboration between the jazz giant and classical composer, Robert Sierra. The music is written in a modern style, with jazz elements of improvisation combined with Latin heritage and classical genres, as Holly Weiss of writes.
Two works are showcased on the CD. The first is Roberto Sierra’s Concerto for Saxophones and Orchestra, recorded in Warsaw with the Sinfonia Varsovia Orchestra, conducted by Giancarlo Guerrero. James Carter solos on soprano and tenor saxophones. Carter calls the composition a “delicate yet strong balance of written music, improvisation and the cadenzas.” Bright orchestration, syncopation and strong accents open the concerto. A plaintive saxophone melody intervenes. Percussive effects from orchestra and tenor sax lead into a kind of atonal, bluesy boogie-woogie in the third movement. A free improvisation on tenor saxophone follows, complete with slap-tonguing, squealing and a soulful, masculine feel leads us into the title track, Caribbean Rhapsody.
The second composition, Caribbean Rhapsody, also composed by Sierra, is a joyful chamber piece with alternating reflective and spirited music. It bounces from the sensuous opening bolero to Latin riffs to music he heard on jukeboxes from cafés he frequented in Puerto Rico. Sierra wrote the piece as a musical reunion for saxophonist Carter and his cousin, violinist Regina Carter. The juxtaposition of saxophone and violin, viola, cello and bass is a refreshingly new hybrid of musical elements. The CD ends with another improvised interlude played on soprano saxophone by James Carter with a tender female quality complete with buzzing, trills, turns, extensive florid sections and a concluding fade into musical eternity.
James Carter is a jazz virtuoso, an instinctual player who explores every sound his heart and saxophone can generate. He defies comfortable categorization and is fascinated with cross-pollination of musical idioms. Regina Carter’s career has spanned classical, jazz and African folk idioms. She was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship (often termed “the genius grant”).
Carter and Sienna astound with their melding talents. Sienna becomes a musical appendage for James Carter’s musical dreams. One of his greatest challenges was integrating Carter’s improvisational passages into his written score. His orchestration is masterful. Together they create an unforgettable CD, a beautiful cross-pollination of musical tastes and genres.
Caribbean Rhapsody is Carter’s 13th album and his second for Emarcy Records. Don’t miss this unique romp through complimentary yet distinct musical styles.
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