Based on this album, a tribute to Joe Henderson, Carr is a Texas tenor man to reckon with. Born and reared in Houston, where he soaked up the sounds of Don Wilkerson and Arnett Cobb, and educated at Texas Southern University and Washington D.C.’s Howard University, he comes across as mature, authoritative and inventive as anyone playing hard-bop-rooted jazz today. He has remained in Washington since his school days, teaching privately and now heading the non-profit Jazz Academy of Music. This is his third album as a leader, and it’s first-rate on all counts.
Working with pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Michael Bowie, drummer Lewis Nash and, on most tracks, trumpeter Terrell Stafford, Carr incorporates references to Henderson’s robust tone, low-register expertise, rolling arpeggios, split notes and trills without giving up his own powerful identity. His excitement is palpable throughout each performance, and it inspires the group. Had this band been around during the golden age of Blue Note Records 40 or 50 years ago, it would have fit right in. Highlights: Henderson’s “Our Thing” and “Granted” are uptempo vehicles that Carr and Stafford devour aggressively and proficiently. Henderson’s bluesy, Latin-tinged “Mamacita” catches Miller in a funky, Joe Zawinul mode. Nash drives Carr’s “Classroom Agenda” with an Art Blakey-like backbeat. Carr caps the 10-tune program with an unaccompanied version of Tadd Dameron’s “If You Could See Me Now.”