James Carter Organ Trio: Django Unchained

James Carter Organ Trio: Django Unchained – July 2, 2016

James Carter honked, squawked, squeaked, and whistled his way through an exciting and entertaining set on Saturday night as part of the 37th annual Montreal Jazzfest.  He even did a bit where he produced sound from a sax without putting his lips on the mouthpiece by putting its bell into a microphone and manipulating the keys. He pulled out all the stops!  His playing was melodious, ambitious, and unfailingly fluid as he contrasted lightning fast runs with smokier mid-tempo material.

JC‘s Organ Trio consists of one familiar foil and one new blood.  Carter described Gerald Gibbs as the alpha and omega as far as organs are concerned and “the cat.”  He’s been evolving aside Carter for the past fifteen years or so and is as well-rooted as they come as a former prized pupil of Richard Groove Holmes.  On drums, Alex White is a “blinking rhythmic beast.”  Carter explained the two are still feeling each out (as he recently took over for Leonard King) but credits him as being instrumental in elevating the rhythmic aspect of the Django Unchained material.

As for Django, clearly James Carter has a deep connection with him and relished not only using the Romani master‘s work as a springboard but turning his fans on to his material as well.  Below are two bonus bits from our conversation this past Sunday.  In the first, he describes his introduction to Reinhardt by a non-commercial radio station and how the Chasin’ the Gypsy album was born sixteen years ago.   In the second, he talks about his first experiences in New York City with Lester Bowie and how he gave him the opportunity of a lifetime.

Last lick: The venue for the show was Gesu, an exquisite sounding church that dates back to the 1860s.  This is my favorite venue in Montreal and an ideal setting to hear a B3.  Beyond providing the overtones for Gerald Gibbs’ inspired performance on Saturday, this was where I shot Dr. Lonnie Smith, with his octet no less a couple of years ago. It was also where NYC’s own Cory Henry knocked my socks off the following night.

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