Sunday, January 18, 2015


Regina Carter
Chances are the full house at the Virgil Carr Center Saturday evening really didn’t know what to expect. Yes, Detroiter violinist Regina Carter was playing. She’s one of a handful of jazz musicians who consistently put on memorable shows. Her set at the 2014 Detroit Jazz Festival was one of its high points. This time Carter wasn't with her regular touring band, and she wasn’t performing cuts from her wonderful 2014 album “Southern Comfort” or cuts from her other albums. 

The Carr Center isn’t the best place in the world to hear music. The sound system needs upgrading. The seating is such you can barely see the musicians. Installing a small stage would be an improvement. 

Carter was at the Carr Center with the Oakland Jazz Quartet playing some of rock-n-roll icon Jimi Hendrix’s greatest hits. The program was the brainchild of Carter and the jazz bassist Miles Brown, the director of Jazz Studies at Oakland University. Brown is an exceptional jazz bassist with a bottomless imagination.  

Carter isn’t new to ambitious undertakings. She’s the only jazz musician to play the prestigious Paganini violin. In 2006, she won the MacArthur Genius Grant. She was honest with the crowd, telling them she didn’t grow up with Hendrix’s music. At times that was apparent. 

Carter performed with drummer Sean Dobbins, pianist Scott Gwinnell, percussionist Mark Stone, and Brown. For musicians unaccustomed to playing Hendrix’s music regularly, they did a fair job. 

Gwinnell and Carter did most of the arranging. The band opened with “Fire,” moved into “Ezy Rider”. Then Dobbins took the floor on “Third Stone from the Sun”. This was the most far-out number the band played. Normally, Dobbins’ drum solos stick to your ribs. This wasn’t one of his shining moments although the bulk of the crowd seemed impressed. 

Overall, the problem with the performance was neither musician seemed intimately knowledgeable of Hendrix’s songbook. You wonder how sweet this project would’ve been had the band spent more than a day or so familiarizing themselves with Hendrix’s hits. 
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