Few musicians made a bigger impression on the scene upon their arrival than Detroit native James Carter did during the early 1990s. Primarily a saxophonist, his versatile mastery of most of the woodwind instruments is astonishing. We conducted his Before & After session on a Saturday afternoon in mid-February, in front of a live audience at the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival in the D.C. suburb of Rockville, Md. Later that evening, Carter participated in a “Tenor Saxophone Summit” alongside Marcus Strickland and Craig Handy. His most recent release as a leader is the organ-trio project At the Crossroads (Emarcy).
Carter, 46, is an impassioned student of the music who has incorporated all of jazz’s stylistic elements, from the traditional to the avant-garde, to create his own unique and immediately recognizable sound. And as the following session reveals, he was a formidable Before & After participant with a rare understanding of the exercise’s focus on musical analysis and personal insight.