Written by Becca Pulliam from National Public Radio
JazzSet returns to the 2011 Newport Jazz Festival for performances from two complementary bandleaders on the main Fort Adams stage: violinist Regina Carter and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.
Regina Carter started playing violin as a 4-year-old Suzuki method student in Detroit, and later played in school and community orchestras. After attending the New England Conservatory of Music, she chose jazz as her primary direction. JazzSet first presented her from the 1995 Telluride Jazz Festival — on a stage in the mountains, playing into the open air.
In 2006, a wonderful surprise changed Carter’s life. The MacArthur Foundation named her a Fellow, citing how she “weaves new sound tapestries” and is “pioneering new possibilities for the violin and for jazz.” Carter used the considerable stipend that comes with this award to seed her Reverse Thread project, documented on a 2010 album.
The cover art on the CD is Yoruban beadwork. Tiny, colored, handmade beads strung and braided in continuous patterns make a fitting visual representation of what’s inside.
In Carter’s words: “I think of the human race being a huge garment, and if you pull one string it can unravel the whole garment.” Her violin, the Malian kora and the wild card — the accordion — trace folkloric and popular melodies as paths into the religions, languages and cultures of Africa.
Personnel: Regina Carter, violin; Yacouba Sissoko, kora; Will Holshouser, accordion; Chris Lightcap, bass; Alvester Garnett, drums.
After Reverse Thread, pianist Dan Nimmer sets up a blues for the Wynton Marsalis quintet. The trumpeter has one of the highest profiles in jazz; his groups have logged countless miles. And yet — with their smiles and momentary eye-locks at key moments — the players telegraph enjoyment.
For most of this excerpt from their 2011 Newport Jazz Festival set, Marsalis draws from The Magic Hour, his first Blue Note Records album, released in 2004. As NPR reported then, a common thread runs through the pieces: “Those final minutes of the day, when parents everywhere are trying to get restless kids to settle down and go to bed, are what Wynton Marsalis calls ‘the magic hour.'”
Wynton himself continues: “When [children] know they’re getting ready to go to bed, it’s like they go crazy. Then you have to put the blues on them to calm them down. Then when you calm them down, you can get into a groove … Then you read them the little bedtime story. Everything calms down and then they go ahead and go to sleep. That’s why it’s magic.”
Each player contributes something special, but these melodies are essentially as simple and pleasing as nursery rhymes. They go straight to memory; before you know it, you’ve learned them. Syncopation is built right into the melody of “Skipping,” and the beat to “Big Fat Hen” (enjoy the generous Wynton solo) is so get-on-your-feet-and-move. The music is so catchy, it might keep you wide awake, singing and dancing long after the band has moved on.
Personnel: Wynton Marsalis, trumpet; Walter Blanding, saxophones; Dan Nimmer, piano; Carlos Henriquez, bass; Ali Jackson, drums.
Recorded and engineered by Steve Remote and Aura-Sonic Ltd.Surround Sound mix by Duke Markos.