Tarantino-esque in his fearsome delivery, but of course Django-esque more in the Reinhardt sense this being jazz beaming in from the spiritual home of the music in the whole country, Ronnie Scott’s, the 45-year-old saxophone star James Carter putting on an exaggerated English accent as he rolled ‘Scott’s’ round on his tongue in his introductory words (he made out we were chilling in Brixton to a few bewildered looks from the Thursday night audience). This performance was an extraordinary reminder of sheer virtuosity, joie de vivre and exuberance from Carter who it’s easy to forget 20 years ago was one of the biggest new stars on the American jazz scene and who perhaps we take for granted a little bit too much: a big mistake. Here in organ trio mode he was with fellow Detroiters Gerard Gibbs roogalating infectiously on the B3 and the slick drummer Leonard King, company Carter keeps on 2011’s At The Crossroads. In the first set of last night’s Frith Street appearance Carter began on tenor and then moved through the family of instruments to alto and eventually straight horn soprano, the latter rendered Bechet-like all buttery and mellow. Elsewhere some of the high notes Carter managed to summon to the cause would have made any resident bat squeak in recognition Carter’s bulging circular breathing-powered command simply astonishing to witness. ‘Nuages’ was the pick of the set, a Django anthem that Carter featured on his Chasin’ The Gypsy album, but there was as much outrageous funk on alto going on as gypsy swing, Carter’s compellingly tart tone a wake-up call for any saxophonist sitting in the club. Gibbs at one point did a bass pedal solo, tap dancing on the pedals in a manner Bill Bojangles Robinson himself would have been proud of. But this was a performance that acted above all as a reminder of Carter’s sheer virtuosity and imagination.  And he doesn’t like to take himself too seriously into the bargain.
Stephen Graham
Leonard King, above left, James Carter, and Gerard Gibbs Photo: Ingrid C Hertfelder