Regina Carter

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Regina_Carter

Perusing the program at the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans before curtain, I read: “Violin virtuoso Regina Carter is considered the foremost jazz violinist of her generation.” Bold bona fide to be sure. But this winner of a coveted 2006 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (often enhanced with the adjective Genius) can live up to the introduction. Ms. Carter looks to be in her 40s, small, dark, with independent hair and a magical bow. Her ensemble included a laid-back, hip accordion, a serious intricate guitar plucker, perhaps the best upright jazz bass I’ve seen, and a wildly happy percussionist. They were just fun to watch.

Regina was definitely the leader, and generally the arranger/composer. This evening, for a full house, they played songs from her album “Southern Comfort.” Broadly, this was a return to her roots in the American South, with dark tunes like “Miner’s Child,” infrequently heard folk tunes like “Hickory Wind,” and food for my child’s memory like “Honky Tonkin'” and “See See Rider.” Stylized, but still tunes to be remembered and saved. Once, she sang with a recording of unadorned coal miners’ voices; I have heard similar recordings of my rural grandmother and her sisters.

Lest I leave VDPers thinking this is not a sophisticated musician, in 2001 Regina Carter traveled to Genoa, Italy, and made musical history by being the first jazz musician and the first African American to play the legendary Guarneri Del Gesu violin owned by virtuoso Niccoló Paganini. And she has an album of Ravel, Debussy, and Ennio Morricone from the concert as evidence. Catch her if she comes your way!

Barbara Motley

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