In the Drivers Seat 

Jazz violinist Regina Carter pulls into Colorado Springs

Why aren't there more jazz violinists? The instrument seems to beg to swing and improvise. But then again it's probably much harder than Regina Carter makes it sound. Detroit native Carter is playing tonight with her quartet at Colorado College, and if you're as starved as I am for a good jazz gig in this town, I'll understand when I see you cartwheeling into Packard Hall.

Carter is on tour in support of her sophomore Verve release Motor City Moments, which is a celebration of the music that has come out of her hometown of Detroit. You can get an idea of the kind of talent Carter possesses by the company she keeps on the album. Detroit natives Barry Harris on piano and James Carter (Regina's second cousin) on sax and clarinet help her swing through Thad Jones' "Don't Git Sassy" and Lucky Thompson's "Prey Loot." Guitarist Russell Malone, a Verve labelmate, joins Carter for the last two songs of the album including a funky, improvised Carter original "Up South," which was born out of listening to Delta bluesman John Lee Hooker. Bassist John Clayton helped with some fantastic arranging to further exploit Carter's mastery of the violin.

Carter was a member of the Detroit Civic Symphony Orchestra, performed with trumpeter Marcus Belgrave (who also appears on the album), and played with a pop/funk band in Detroit, so it's no wonder you can hear a diverse mix of influences in her playing. Most of the tunes on Motor City Moments, which provide the perfect structure for Carter to show off her confident talents, are written by Carter's famous Detroit favorites like Marvin Gaye, Milt Jackson and Stevie Wonder.

Even though big names make appearances on Motor City Moments, Carter's touring band is ever-present throughout the album as well. Bassist Darryl Hall and drummer Alvester Garnett provide a solid rhythm section for kick-ass renditions of "Higher Ground" and "Don't Git Sassy," while pianist Werner "Vana" Gierig and percussionist Mayra Casales rip it up on Milt Jackson's "For Someone I Love," which Carter arranged as a danzon (that's a Cuban version of a tango). Carter's good, but I don't think you'll need convincing after the show.


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