Picks and Pans Review: The Real Quietstorm

updated 10/30/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/30/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

James Carter

At 26, Carter is the most lavishly gifted, formidably developed and astonishing saxophonist to come along in quite, some time. He plays soprano, alto, tenor and baritone sax, and he appears to have not only total technical command of all of them but a powerful, distinctive sound on each, plus an individually tailored soloing style to match. In addition, he plays bass clarinet and bass flute—not just with authority but with insouciance. His mind bursts with ideas that he releases sometimes in torrents, sometimes in long, leisurely, sinuous lines. When he goes "out"—jazzspeak for full-throttle playing beyond the bounds of normal harmony—he rarely loses the thread of musical expression, never resorts to the usual desperate honking and other forms of furious water treading until the next idea mercifully floats by.

Well, once or twice he does in the course of some of his more epic explosions on Jurassic Classics (DIW/Columbia), the more rip-roaring and flat-out of the two discs. But the Detroit native has emotional depth as well as youthful exuberance. The ballads on the beautifully conceived Quietstorm (Atlantic Jazz) bespeak unusual maturity, knowledge and historical vision. Carter has done the artist's essential job of absorbing the past in order to make it his own and perhaps transform it. He has a shot. In this endeavor he's aided by an exceptional band: Craig Taborn on piano, Jaribu Shahid on bass and Tani Tabbal on drums. They've worked together on three stirring albums now (beginning with JC on the Set in 1993), and they've only just begun.

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