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[whitespace] Both sides now: James Carter

Photograph by Lorenzo Aguis


Carter's Craft

Jazz saxophonist James Carter releases a pair of new discs

James Carter
Chasin' the Gypsy (Atlantic Jazz)
Layin' in the Cut (Atlantic Jazz)

JAZZ SAXOPHONIST James Carter's 1996 release Conversin' with the Elders (Atlantic Jazz)--with Lester Bowie, Buddy Tate, Harry "Sweets" Edison, and other guests--earned kudos for its intelligent treatment of straight-ahead classics. It paid homage to Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Lester Young, and other greats without succumbing to the shameless imitation that is so rife among young jazz lions. The newly released Chasin' the Gypsy takes a similar approach. Employing sparse arrangements, Carter draws inspiration from the Romany Gypsies and Parisian cafe jazz while lending an affectionate nod to the late, great guitarist Django Reinhardt through such Django chestnuts as "Nuages" (best known as "The Honeymooners Theme") and "Oriental Shuffle." Romero Lubambo provides the tasteful Djangoesque licks while violinist Regina Carter fills the Stephane Grappelli role; Carter dishes up the soulful vision and adds some drop-dead bass sax solos. The second release in this double whammy is Layin' in the Cut, an electrified set that builds its foundation on Ornette Coleman's groundbreaking '70s-era Prime Time fusion ensemble. Guitarist Marc Ribot is featured. While not as deep as Coleman's outfit, this combo may help dispel Carter's reputation as a lightweight held by his harshest critics. And, frankly, he's on to something. Together, these discs reaffirm the brilliance of one of the genre's most promising rising stars.
Greg Cahill


Queens of the Stone Age
Restricted (Interscope)

WELCOME TO the New Age of Arena Rock: rap-metal fusions may dominate today's hard rock, but a subtler strain of big-riff, hippie-punk, retro bad boys like Monster Magnet, Fu Manchu, Buck Cherry, and Nebula are picking up where AC/DC, Pink Floyd, and Guns N' Roses left off. On their second disc, Restricted, Southern California's Queens of the Stone Age (led by former founding members of Kyuss) bring this new wave of "stoner rock" into the mainstream. The opening drug-paean blast "Feel Good Hit of the Summer" sounds like the Ramones covering Led Zeppelin, while the rest of the keyboard-heavy disc sounds like a glam version of classic Black Sabbath. Hold those lighters high!
Karl Byrn


Anti-Pop Consortium
Tragic Epilogue (75 Ark Records)

A NAME LIKE Anti-Pop Consortium might lead one to think of either goofy New Wave revolutionaries or overly serious techno wunderkinds. Here, it's a quintessentially avant-garde hip-hop group. In the mode of classic "alt-rap" acts like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, this East Coast MC trio busts odd rhyme schemes against sparse, angular, jazzy-electro beats. Rappers Beans, Priest, and Earl Blaze are unusually smart but no more speedily verbose than mainstream acts (some cuts here borrow their abstract darkness from the Wu-Tang Clan style). Their strength is in being artfully, quizzically abstract; lyrically, they thankfully avoid the alt-rap trap of preaching against hardcore rappers. Different--very different.
K.B.


Spin du Jour

The Mermen
The Amazing California Health and Happiness Road Show (Mesa/Blue Moon)

NEO-SURF GIANTS the Mermen used to ride heady sonic waves with a heavy mix of twangy surf and psychedelic Hendrixesque guitars. These days, the band is plying calmer waters with peaceful melodic instrumentals that evoke the sparkle of the shimmering shoreline (although tracks like "Miki's Lust Behive" show that the band can still stir up a storm). California dreaming at its finest--the perfect soundtrack for cruising the coast this summer.
G.C.


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From the June 13-19, 2000 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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