Rhythms of the Heart
Regina Carter definitely has a lot of room to run in the jazz world with the violin, an instrument that has been selected by relatively few for compelling reasons, including the sheer difficulty of mastering the contraption and the rigorous, non-swinging, non-improvising classical training that usually produces that mastery. Some of the conservatory still lingers in Carter’s formal stage stance and in traces of the music, but there is no doubt that she can swing mightily, if not yet with the consistently eloquent ease of the old masters. Kenny Barron contributes his unshakably solid piano to four cuts and Werner Gierig handles four more; Rodney Jones serves up jazz and wah-wah guitars; Peter Washington (bass) and Lewis Nash (drums) back most of the tracks. A good deal of the CD places Carter in a straight-ahead setting, where she shows her Stuff Smith stuff particularly winningly on “Oh, Lady Be Good.” Luckily, she hasn’t been roped into the mainstream to the exclusion of all else: hence, the brave, if slightly inhibited, reggae-funk version of the Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” with an idiosyncratic moaning vocal by guest Cassandra Wilson. Carter also tries out a mild salsa groove on “Mojito,” and a nice revolving African beat on “Mandingo Street” in the manner of early-’90s Jean-Luc Ponty. In all, a decent all-purpose major-label debut, designed to present a table of contents for her emerging career.