If ever there was proof that jazz is now an international music, it was at Ronnie Scotts last night in the form of violinist Regina Carter. Detroit-born and a natural blues-woman, Carter is from jazz heartlands, but her band combines an accordion and kora (plus talking drum) with bass and drums, to create a rare soundscape.
Carter is performing two nights at the home of London jazz, presenting new music from her forthcoming album, Reverse Thread, a collection of songs that “explores the music African diaspora” as she describes it. The band kicked off with a perfectly poised but funky arrangement of an Amadou & Mariam number and later performed a Ugandan folk song, before which Carter played the club a ‘field recording’: a haunting female voice accompanied by the sounds of village life.
An imaginative bandleader and a thoughtful musician, Carter is also quite some violinist. Unlike many modern jazz violinists who favour the electric route and a more-is-more virtuoso approach (think Nigel Kennedy), she is first and foremost a jazz musician – the violin just happens to be the instrument she communicates with.
Instead, Carter and her band favour a more acoustic approach (Carter’s violin is miked from above), letting their instruments sing naturally even if it means the audience have to listen harder – not a problem in a packed but attentive Ronnie Scotts.
Carter’s music is rooted in the blues and improvisation. She has a soulful way with her fiddle but can play with real bite. Like the father of jazz violin, Stéphane Grappelli, there is a magnetic relationship between her bow hairs and string, enabling her to move effortlessly from gritty improvisation to the purest gossamer textures.
Head to Ronnie Scotts tonight to see if you can catch her – seats at the bar are sometimes available.
Also, click here to see Carter in action, watch this YouTube clip of her performing with Ray Brown (of the Oscar Peterson Trio).