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Regina Carter at the Detroit Jazz Festival

Regina Carter

The influence of instrumentalists on vocalists has long been chronicled in jazz lore, but that of vocalists on instrumentalists has rarely been acknowledged. But you only had to hear violinist Regina Carter (pictured) at the 28th annual Detroit International Jazz Festival, where she was the event’s first ever artist-in-residence, to appreciate how much she has been influenced, both musically and temperamentally, by Ella Fitzgerald.

Of course, Carter wasn’t exactly keeping it a secret. Appearing with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra at the festival finale on Labor Day evening, she introduced “A-Tisket A-Tasket” by telling the crowd it was her first time back in her hometown since her mother’s passing, and she had to play her mother’s “favorite song.” And the day before, in a duo performance with pianist Kenny Barron, Carter repeatedly referenced Fitzgerald’s famously free-wheeling, song-quoting live recorded version of “Lady Be Good.” Also, when appearing on the opening Friday night of the Labor Day weekend festival with her own quintet, Carter’s repertoire included the Ella-associated songs “You Took Advantage of Me” and “Sentimental Journey.” If all those musical references weren’t enough, there were also Carter’s comments about hearing Ella at home when growing up, offered during a Jazz Talk Tent panel discussion on “The American Song.”

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