Monday, March 24, 2014

Concert Review: Regina Carter at Helzberg Hall

During her concert Sunday at Helzberg Hall, Regina Carter told the audience of about 600 that she had conducted a genealogical search at  Carter learned that she was 73% West African and 27% Finnish.

I couldn't help but think about my bloodlines as Carter focused on evocative material from her lovely new album Southern Comfort.  Country music played in my home as I grew up.  I loved it then just as I love it now.  My primary exposure to jazz was Vince Guaraldi's "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and occasional pop hits by the likes of Stanley Clarke and Weather Report.

It wasn't until a coworker lent me a dusty copy of Vassar Clements' Hillbilly Jazz that I realized my affection for country and my nascent passion for jazz could be reconciled.

The violinist's exploration of country and other sounds of the South on Southern Comfort- a tribute to the music she associates with her paternal grandfather- follows Carter's investigation into African music.  She promoted the related Reverse Thread project in Kansas City last year.

Southern Comfort occasionally resembles polite NPR bumper music.  I'd hoped that Carter would cut loose Sunday.  Instead, she and a stellar four-piece backing band maintained the album's serene tone.  Aside from a couple loud outbursts by drummer Alvester Garnett, the musicians were exceedingly polite.  The outstanding guitarist Marvin Sewell acted as if the ceiling would cave in if he played too loudly.  Accordionist Will Holshouser and bassist Chris Lightcap performed with similarly light touches. 

Cajun, gospel and folk selections were enchanting.  Cater took daring liberties with "Honky Tonkin'." (I'm not sure Hank done it that way.)  The song that sent me into the deepest reverie, however, was an instrumental version of Gram Parson's "Hickory Wind".  It was the single best thing I've heard in 2014.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)


danasgoodstuff said...

Love her Southern Comfort album, more than anything else by her although I've long been aware that she could play some. Been very disappointed in the nonresponse to my post about it on my favorite jazz bulliten board

Happy In Bag said...

It's a lovely album, albeit one that's likely to mortify jazz purists.