Monday, September 22, 2014


Leonard King Jr., James Carter, and Gerard Gibbs
The jazz saxophonist James Carter formed his organ trio in Detroit soon after he made the album “Live at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge” in the summer of 2001. Since then the trio, which includes drummer Leonard King Jr. and organist Gerard Gibbs, has become a household sensation. The trio has toured the world and has put out three albums. The most recent one is the blues inspired “At the Crossroads”.  

The trio has one apparent flaw, failing to hit Detroit regularly. Sunday afternoon, for the first time in nine years the trio played in Detroit at the First Unitarian Universalist Church. During the three-hour plus concert, Carter never let on why the trio has put off play in Detroit.

Carter, Gibbs and King Jr. put on a phenomenal concert. Chances are no one cared why they haven’t made time to hit Detroit. Of late, the trio has toured overseas, playing the music of the great gypsy jazz giant Django Reinhardt. Carter called the tour “Django Unchained”. 

Sunday, the trio performed some tunes from "Django Unchained". Carter was all over the saxophone, making it do things that defied logic. On the opening number, Carter violated several commandments and blew so forcefully on one tune it could’ve blown Jesus off his cross. One of Carter’s trademarks is playing cadenzas. Throughout the concert, he played many memorable ones. 

There were moments when Carter blew so recklessly it appear the saxophone was going to explode in his hands. Throughout the trio played as if making up for lost time. Apparently, Carter, King Jr. and Gibbs absolutely love playing with each other.The trio played an enough music the first set to satisfy the audience. The second set was more of a bonus. 

The trio tore through cuts from “At the Crossroads” such as “Walking The Dog,” “Lettuce Toss Yo’ Salad,” and “The Hard Blues”. Of course, the audience came for Carter, but Gerard Gibbs was a scene-stealer and King Jr. had his moments of brilliance. Gibbs had the church organ preaching.

Gibbs is the soul of the trio, and the feats Carter created on the saxophones Gibbs matched on the organ. Highlights of the concert were witnessing the exchanges between Carter and Gibbs. He plays the keyboard in a number of bands and he plays piano in Carter’s quintet. He's a decent enough pianist but the organ is his natural habitat. He’s one of the top jazz organist around presently.

King Jr., the trio's elder statesman, drummed so ferociously he destroyed a pair of drumsticks. His singing was a nice contrast to all the hell the trio raised. Wonder why Carter didn’t feature him on more tunes. Not surprising, the response to the concert was overwhelmingly positive. Maybe the trio won’t wait another nine years to hit Detroit again.