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JAZZ REVIEW

Carter lets her violin sing

May 08, 2003|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

Violinist Regina Carter has been receiving a considerable promotional push lately for her encounter with Paganini's legendary Guarneri violin "the Cannon." Her performances with the remarkable instrument have tended to emphasize its unprecedented use by an African American female playing jazz, rather than the quality of the music itself. And on the recording "Paganini: After a Dream," at least, that quality was considerably more creatively conservative than Carter's past efforts on more mundane violins.

Neither the Cannon -- which is kept guarded under lock and key in Genoa, Italy -- nor most of the music from the album accompanied Carter to Los Angeles this week for her run at the Jazz Bakery. And interestingly, her performance Tuesday was also different from the playing she has offered in the past few years (most recently, her carefully crafted duo appearances with pianist Kenny Barron).

The current Carter ensemble -- pianist Werner "Vana" Gierig, bassist Chris Lightcap, drummer Alvester Garnet and percussionist Mayra Casales -- provided a particularly felicitous setting for her violin work, ranging from subtle support to a series of compelling solos.

The rendering of Richard Bona's "Mandingo Street" was a fascinating example of the group's creative interaction. After a set of exploratory solos had opened the way, Carter began to sing with her violin line, accompanied by vocal backup from Gierig, Garnet and Casales. As the piece wound down, the voices continued to combine, contrapuntally and harmonically, in an enthralling blend.

Carter's soloing was, as usual, extraordinary, bursting with joyous swing in a romp through "Chattanooga Choo-Choo," rich with tender lyricism in Ravel's "Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte." And it was a distinct pleasure to hear her once again playing her own instrument with free-flying enthusiasm, undeterred by the legend of the Cannon or the distractions of its armed guards.

*

Regina Carter Quintet

Where: The Jazz Bakery, 3233 Helms Ave., Culver City

When: Tonight-Sunday, 8 and 9:30 p.m.

Price: Tonight, $30; Friday through Sunday, $35

Info: (310) 271-9039

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