Detroit Birthday Profile for January: James Carter
Photo: Paul Mauriat Music.com
Detroit saxophonist, James Carter, was born in Detroit on January 3, 1969 and is one of the most celebrated players on the world stage. He’s not only known as a true saxophone virtuoso but also for being an innovator who has explored his own creative voice and style.
He first started playing at age 11 and was fortunate to study with East Side Middle School Jazz instructor, Donald Washington who formed the unique school ensemble “Bird-Trane- Sco-Now!”. The band name came from style makers Charlie “Bird” Parker, John Coltrane, and Roscoe Mitchell.
I saw Bird-Trane-Sco-Now perform live early on and was so impressed, I invited them to play live on my radio show at WDET-FM 101.9
Soon after, in 1981, I produced a concert with them at the New World Theater on Woodward. James was in the band at the time. He was 12. I continued to keep my eye on him and have followed his career to this day.
Other well-known musicians got their start studying with Washington, including award-winning bassist and Michigan State Jazz Director, Rodney Whitaker.
James and I in 2003 after one of our live interviews on WDET-FM.
While in high school, Carter attended the Blue Lake Fine Arts camp and became the youngest member of their faculty. They toured Scandinavia in 1985 when he was just 16. In 1988 he had an opportunity to play with acclaimed trumpeter Lester Bowie at the Detroit Institute of Arts, which put him in the national spotlight.
He then moved to New York and soon became known as one of the most aspiring young Jazz performers on an international Jazz scene, playing saxophones, flute and clarinets.
He was featured in a 1994 PBS national broadcast “Live at Lincoln Center”. Another high point came when got more international attention when he portrayed Ben Webster in Robert Altman’s, award-winning 1996, film “Kansas City”.
He began recording albums under his own name including the “Chasin’ the Gypsy” in 2000 – a tribute to Django Reinhardt, featuring his cousin, prominent Jazz violinist, Regina Carter.
Other notable recordings include “The Real Quiet Storm” (1995), “Gardenias for Lady Day” (2003), “Live at Bakers Keyboard Lounge with David Murray and Johnny Griffin” (2004).
He won Downbeat magazine’s Critics and Readers Choice award for baritone saxophone for several years in a row and has played and recorded with Wynton Marsalis, Dee Dee Bridgwater, The Mingus Big Band, Julius Hemphill, Frank Lowe, Kathleen Battle, The World Saxophone Quartet, Cyrus Chestnut, and many others.
His playing is the sign of true master. It’s powerful, and expressive backed up by enormous amounts of skill and musicianship. He’s the amazing James Carter.
Detroit Public Radio mainstay, Judy Adams, is a trained pianist, composer and musicologist who hosts a Jazz and contemporary music show on CJAM 99.1FM and guest hosts on WRCJ 90.9FM.