john carter | echoes from rudolph’s

John Carter Photo: Mark Weber

Ibedon IAS 1000

John Carter / clarinet, soprano saxophone, William Jeffrey / drums, Stanley Carter / acoustic/electric bass, Melba Joyce / vocal (one track), Chris Carter / finger cymbals (on vocal track).

Recorded: September 6, 1976 and July 14, 1977.

The impact of Carter’s music stems from his ability to straddle freely the old and the new – combining a genuine melodic/rhythmic impulse with explorations of a more purely rhythmic/harmonic nature. His tone on his instruments, especially the clarinet, is round and wooden like a song, yet there’s a certain revelry in sound – textural and timbral – for its own sake. He likes to work with contrast, moving in and out of tempo, altering the flow through dynamic shifting, and working – often very quickly, spilling sound into space – across a span of registers, from extreme top to bottom of his instruments. His clarinet solo piece, “Angles,” is truly remarkable in these respects, setting I believe some new standard of excellence for the instrument and bringing it, perhaps for the first time, entirely into contemporary expression. His one soprano saxophone excursion, “Amin” (in trio format) suggests the full extent of his stylistic originality. He plays the horn with an exuberant self-confidence rarely heard on that instrument since John Coltrane played it, yet his lines/sounds flow – “pour out” would be better – completely differently.

Especially noteworthy is the way he uses held sounds of varying lengths, at times combined with unusual alterations of timbre, and placed at unlikely “time points,” as a means of rhythmic propulsion. Stanley Carter offers some sensitive, cello-like bass accompaniment throughout, and he occasionally steps forward to engage in a head-to-head counterpoint of line with his father. Bill Jeffrey’s drums are bright, crisp, and tasteful, surrounding Carter with sound. And the single vocal track with Melba Joyce is satisfying enough (if a bit less substantial than the rest of the music), her work bringing to mind something of the work of Sheila Jordan.

This is John Carter’s finest recorded work, establishing him once and for all as an artist of major stature and importance.

Henry Kuntz, 1977


carterportrait.jpgJohn Carter (1929-1991) jazz composer and clarinetist, was born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1929. He was influenced by the music at his Baptist church and records his parents owned by jazz greats, such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Cab Calloway. Carter began playing clarinet at the age of twelve; he also played flute and saxophone. He played with Ornette Coleman in Fort Worth. He received his B.A. in music in 1949 at Lincoln University in Jefferson, Missouri, and his M.A. at the University of Colorado in 1956. He taught music in the Fort Worth public schools from 1949 to 1961, when he secured a position as a traveling elementary-school music teacher in Los Angeles, California. There he and Bobby Bradford, also from Texas, collaborated to form the New Art Jazz Ensemble. Some of their music was released as “West Coast Hot” in 1969. In Los Angeles Carter opened a jazz establishment, Rudolph’s, where progressive musicians met. He was critics’ choice for best jazz clarinetist for most of the 1980s.

Between 1985 and 1990 Carter composed and recorded “Roots and Folklore: Episodes in the Development of American Folk Music. Dauwhe (1985), Castles of Ghana (1985), Dance of the Love Ghosts (1986), Fields (1988), and Shadows on a Wall (1989). The complete set was acclaimed by jazz critics as containing some of the best releases of the 1980s. In February 1990 Carter had a nonmalignant tumor that resulted in the removal of his left lung. He made an appearance in Los Angeles in September of that year, in which he stated that he expected a full recovery. He died on March 31, 1991, in Los Angeles from complications due to lung cancer. He was survived by his wife, Gloria, three sons, and a daughter, Regina Carter.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Austin Chronicle, April 12, 1991. Barry Kernfeld, ed., The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (London: Macmillan, 1988). Los Angeles Times, September 5, 1990, April 14, 1991. New York Times, July 5, 1981. Kristi Strickland

selected John Carter recordings


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