Picks and Pans Review: Conversin' with the Elders

UPDATED 07/01/1996 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 07/01/1996 at 01:00 AM EDT

James Carter

After bursting from the gate with three blistering albums that left no doubt as to his talent, technique and ability to synthesize the past and the present, saxophonist Carter takes his fourth disc at a relative canter. Could he be mellowing at the tender age of 27? Not likely, but a bluesy intimacy undoubtedly prevails as Carter plays host to five of his musical heroes.

On each of the nine cuts, the multi-instrumentalist and his fine young rhythm section are joined by one of jazz's most respected "elders." Like Carter himself, the guests range widely in style, from such sultans of swing as trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison and tenor saxophonist Buddy Tate (both famed Basie-ites) to avant-garde architects like baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett (of the World Saxophone Quartet) and trumpeter Lester Bowie (of the Art Ensemble of Chicago). Less well-known but hardly overmatched is Detroit alto saxophonist Larry Smith.

It's a long way from the giddy frolic of "Lester Leaps In," with Sweets Edison caroming off some classic chord changes, to the lurching abstraction of Anthony Braxton's "Composition #40Q," with Bluiett and Carter, both on baritone, honking and wailing. If one's your meat, the other may be your poison, but the blues underlies both. With Carter's pianist Craig Taborn emerging as a sparkling player himself, Elders allows its much admired leader to turn the tables and spotlight those he most admires. (Atlantic)

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