At the stroke of midnight, we were listening to the music of jazz violinist Regina Carter. We went through the five albums in my iTunes library: Something for Grace (1997); Rhythms of the Heart (1999); Motor City Moments (2000); Freefall with Kenny Barron (2001); and Reverse Thread (2010). Even with the two CDs that live in my car, Southern Comfort and Ella: Accentuate the Positive, I am missing some of Regina's recorded music. But what I do have, I listen to often; and draw great solace and inspiration from her work. I love the way each album explores a different theme or type of music, including the music of her hometown, her African roots, and then her southern heritage.
My first awareness of Regina Carter came while working with Sojourner, the all women's ensemble that Rita Warford and I formed in the late seventies. The group consisted of four people from Chicago (me on sitar and bass, vocalists Rita Warford and Chavunduka Sevanhu, and bassist Sherri Weathersby) and four from Detroit (Kafi Patrice Nassoma on harp and flute, Elreta Dodds on reeds, drummer Gayelynn McKinney, and percussionist Ahsia Hill). Earlier percussionists had been Bunchy Fox of the Bronx and Detroiter Barbara Huby.
The Detroit women knew hometown musician Regina Carter, and there was talk of asking her to join Sojourner. But she was headed to New York. And what an auspicious move it was!! Although she entered the New York jazz scene as a relative unknown, Carter's classical and jazz training allowed her to teach and to work as a backup player. Her unique instrumental voice and approach to the violin eventually garnered her enough attention to get recording contracts, high profile gigs, and a MacArthur "genius grant."
Although Regina Carter frequently performs in Chicago, so far I've only seen her "live" on two occasions: in 2014 at the University of Chicago's Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts; and in 2017 at Symphony Center. At both packed concerts, Carter wowed the crowd the warmth and fluidity of her playing, her amazing technique, and the way she swings the standards and her originals. And always, always, she gets the goodies out of the blues.
Regina Carter is a soulful, skillful jazzwoman, deserving of a long and illustrious career.