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James Carter: Chasin’ the Gypsy

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Just when you had him pegged as a rip-snorting tenor and bari monster with a wicked penchant for ferocious overblowing, he comes across as a shameless romantic on Chasin’ the Gypsy, his lovely ode to Django. Still, Carter’s characteristic bravado, tenor squeals, trills and remarkable displays of multiphonics are still intact here, even in the lush setting of “The Last Shepherdess” and “Django’s Castle.” Carter nicely grafts his own sense of swagger onto Django’s swing-era aesthetic on “Heavy Artillery,” which features some very frisky exchanges between Regina Carter’s Joe Venuti/Stuff Smith-styled violin

and Carter’s blowtorch bass sax. The two also joyously unite on the lithe title track, a giddy homage that has Carter soaring effortlessly on soprano sax while Jay Berliner and Romero Lubambo chunk appropriately behind him on guitars.

Django’s melancholy “Oriental Shuffle” is a showcase for Carter’s F-mezzo soprano sax, while Regina Carter flashes her considerable chops and musicality on a tender reading of “I’ll Never Be the Same.” Then the sparks fly on a spirited Hot Clubish rendition of “Avalon,” with the two Carters engaging in some explosive violin and tenor sax call-and-response as the tune heats up.

Carter is given brilliant support throughout by bassist Steve Kirby and drummer Joey Baron, whose instincts are always right on, whether he’s swinging fervently with sticks or conjuring up an alluring mood with brushes. Accordionist Charlie Giordano adds coloristic touches throughout, and Lubambo helps convey a tasteful Brazilian vibe with his soothing nylon-string guitar work. Lubambo’s moving duet with Carter on the lovely closer “Imari’s Lullaby” is a lyrical highlight.