Violinist Regina Carter is considered the foremost jazz violinist of her generation – a designation which doesn’t quite paint the picture. As a result of her curiosity, passion, and quest for beauty brought to every stop taken on her full musical journey, she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship (a “genius grant”). Those are more apparent than ever on her upcoming debut Southern Comfort (Sony Music Masterworks), in which she explores the folk music of the South. The album will be released on March 4, 2014 and coincide with an international tour.
Southern Comfort thematically connects Carter’s earlier albums I’ll Be Seeing You: A Sentimental Journey (2006), which features her mother’s favorite early jazz standards; and Reverse Thread (2010) which celebrates the tradition of African music re-imagined for violin, accordion, bass, drums and kora. On her new album she explores the folk tunes her paternal grandfather, a coalminer, would have heard as he toiled in Alabama – and the project expanded to include other folk tunes of the region.
Intent on making the past, present, Regina sought out distant relatives and books about the era in which her grandfather lived. From there, she went to the Library of Congress and the renowned collections of folklorists such as Alan Lomax and John Work III digging deep into their collected field recordings from Appalachia. On Southern Comfort, Regina interprets her own roots through a modern lens.
“When I would hear some of these field recordings, if I heard something that touched me I put it on the list,” said Carter. “I had maybe 50 tunes that I felt strongly about, and I finally forced myself to work more on those to stop myself from collecting more.”
The 11 tracks on Southern Comfort include Carter’s interpretations of Cajun fiddle music, early gospel and coal miner’s work songs in addition to some more contemporary tunes.
“In the Appalachians there were Scottish and Irish descendants, slaves and Native Americans. It was a cultural hodgepodge and the music resulting from it is intoxicating. This disc was to pay homage to my family,” said Carter, “but it turned out to be so much more.”
The musicians on this recording bring a different mixture of backgrounds to the project, including guitarists Adam Rogers and Marvin Sewell, bassists Chris Lightcap and Jesse Murphy, accordionist Will Holshouser and drummer Alvester Garnett, who also provided arrangements. Stefon Harris, Xavier Davis and Nate Smith also contributed arrangements, about which Carter expressed, “Each arranger brings out something musically that’s unique to them which speaks to me.”
On being signed to Sony Music Masterworks, Carter adds, “I’m so excited to work with a label that has such history; it’s the perfect place for this project. Moreover, it’s wonderful to be reunited with U.S. label head Chuck Mitchell. I’ve provided Southern Comfort – the nurturance and comfort Chuck and SONY have provided covers a realm far greater.”