The first time I heard James Carter, he was performing at Yoshi's for the Eddie Moore festival in August, 1995 with the New York Organ ensemble. The group included Lester Bowie on trumpet, Amina Claudine Myers on organ, Frank Lacy on trombone, Kelvyn Bell on guitar, Don Moye on drums and Carter on all saxophones.
Carter's performance was high powered and high energy; although he was the youngest of the group, he appeared to be a well-experienced musician on stage.
James Carter caused a sensation in the mid 90's and has the ability to play in any jazz style from the slap tongue staccato of early 20's tenors and Dixieland to swing, bop, 1950's R&B, free form and funk while still sounding like himself, a high powered player skilled on most reeds (with tenor being his main instrument). Carter often switches quickly and unexpectedly between style and the effect can be exhilarating or numbing.
Carter is the youngest of five children born into a musical family from Detroit. The owner of more than sixty woodwind instruments, he is best known for his saxophone work. In addition to the soprano, alto, tenor, and the baritone saxes, he plays the clarinet, bass clarinet, oboe, and bass flute. His musical taste runs the gamut from straight-ahead to swing, to free jazz.
The Carterian Fashion differs from his earlier CD's in that Carter (who switches between tenor, soprano, baritone sax, and bass clarinet) is joined by one of three organists (Henry Butler, Cyrus Chestnut and his regular pianist Craig Taborn) instead of piano, which of course changes the sound of the ensembles.
However, a few of the songs come across as Jimmy Smith style soul jazz. Carter stretches from bluesy tunes to Don Byrd swinging mid-40's romp and some avant-garde explorations.
Altoist Cassius Richmond (who is on three of the trumpet pieces) is also excellent. However, Carter makes his fiery explosions and colorful tonal distortions really stand out.
It's just a matter of time passing and the accomplishments before Cater is thought of as one of the all time greats.