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Caribbean Rhapsody; Concerto for Saxophones and Orchestra

4.9 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product Description

The extraordinary decade-long collaboration of jazz virtuoso James Carter and classical composer Roberto Sierra comes to a thrilling culmination with the release on May 17 of their first recording, Caribbean Rhapsody. Sierra's Concerto for Saxophones and Orchestra, composed for Carter and premiered in Detroit in 2002, is the centerpiece of the new Emarcy CD; a new Sierra composition, "Caribbean Rhapsody," which features Carter, his musical cousin Regina Carter on violin, and string quintet, is a gorgeous companion piece. Two solo interludes on tenor and soprano saxophones respectively were composed by Carter in response to themes and elements in both of Sierra's works.

"What immediately struck me was that he played with total command and mastery of the instrument," says Sierra, a professor of composition at Cornell University. "James is the Paganini of the saxophone. He and the instrument are one. To me that was amazing, right from the start."

The concerto was recorded in Warsaw with the Sinfonia Varsovia Orchestra, conducted by Giancarlo Guerrero (music director of the Nashville Symphony). Carter was joined by violinist Regina Carter along with cellist Akua Dixon's string quintet for the recording of "Caribbean Rhapsody" in New York. Michael Cuscuna produced the new album; Wulf Müller and Cynthia B. Herbst served as executive producers.

The Concerto for Saxophones and Orchestra was commissioned for James Carter by the saxophonist's hometown Detroit Symphony Orchestra. It was premiered by the DSO and its music director, Neeme Jarvi, in October 2002 and reprised by them the following year. "There are no real precedents for the concerto," Sierra says. "To me it was clear I could not look at the past, I had to imagine something and do it."

For Carter, the premiere was just the beginning of an ongoing process exploring the emotional nuances and melodic contours of Sierra's breathtakingly intricate work. "It proves to be a very delicate yet strong balance of written music, improvisation, and the cadenzas," says Carter, 42. "They're strategically placed, especially the one that always challenges me as to which way to go

as far as improv is concerned--the end of the third movement segueing into the fourth and the finale. It's like an atonal boogie-woogie. Blues is always a place you have to come home to, so it was a very fitting ending." For "Caribbean Rhapsody," Sierra draws on memories of his growing up in Puerto Rico and the music he heard on jukeboxes in cafetines--from the sensuous opening bolero to the Latin riffs reminiscent of son montuno. He was "curious to see the combination of James and Regina improvising together and also on two different instruments--the sax, basically from the jazz tradition, and the violin, the quintessential orchestral instrument. And of course I had the ideal players." The CD's producer Michael Cuscuna calls it "contemporary classical music of the highest order."

An artist long intrigued by contrasts and hybrids, Carter resists comfortable categorization. "You have to be totally comfortable wherever," he says. "I think there's tremendous beauty in cross-pollinations of music and influences."

Caribbean Rhapsody is Carter's 13th album and his second for Emarcy Records. Present Tense (2008) which featured trumpeter Dwight Adams, bassist James Genus, drummer Victor Lewis, and pianist D.D. Jackson, was described in a four-star Rolling Stone review as "Presidential Carter: soulfulness and technique in perfect balance."

About the Artist

Sometimes it takes an extraordinary talent to inspire an unprecedented piece of music. For Puerto Rican-born composer Roberto Sierra, the epiphany struck in the midst of a tenor saxophone solo by James Carter, who was appearing as the featured soloist with legendary soprano Kathleen Battle. Long fascinated by the horn, Sierra immediately realized he had encountered a master capable of playing anything he could imagine. Working closely with Carter over several months, he composed a four-part concerto that seamlessly integrates the forms and harmonic language of contemporary classical music, Latin rhythms, and jazz's improvisational imperative. Documented on Carter's 13th release and his second for Universal, Concerto for Saxophones and Orchestra is a singular work that stands alone in the jazz and classical canons, half belonging to each world. In a fascinating collaboration that neither could have foreseen, one of classical music's most widely respected composers has given this era's most prodigious saxophonist the role of a lifetime.

"What immediately struck me was that he played with total command and mastery of the instrument," says Sierra, a professor of composition at Cornell University. "James is the Paganini of the saxophone. He and the instrument are one. To me that was amazing, right from the start."

Carter premiered the concerto with his hometown Detroit Symphony Orchestra in October 2002, a performance that elicited such a rapturous response that he and the orchestra reprised the last movement as an encore. As the Detroit News music critic reported, "In your lifetime, did you ever witness such a thing--the reprise of a new work, on the spot? Neither did I, until Thursday night, when Carter and conductor Neeme Jarvi finally gave in to a storm that showed no signs of abating and recapped the last long stretch of Roberto Sierra's brilliant `Concerto for Saxophones.'"

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 17, 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: EmArcy
  • ASIN: B004QDCZAA
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #186,212 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Holly Weiss VINE VOICE on May 22, 2011
Format: Audio CD
Article first published as Music Review: James Carter - Caribbean Rhapsody on Blogcritics.

Caribbean Rhapsody from Emarcy records features saxophone virtuoso James Carter. The recording is the culmination of a decade long collaboration between the jazz giant and classical composer, Robert Sierra. The music is written in a modern style, with jazz elements of improvisation combined with Latin heritage and classical genres.

Two works are showcased on the CD. The first is Roberto Sierra's Concerto for Saxophones and Orchestra, recorded in Warsaw with the Sinfonia Varsovia Orchestra, conducted by Giancarlo Guerrero. James Carter solos on soprano and tenor saxophones. Carter calls the composition a "delicate yet strong balance of written music, improvisation and the cadenzas." Bright orchestration, syncopation and strong accents open the concerto. A plaintive saxophone melody intervenes. Percussive effects from orchestra and tenor sax lead into a kind of atonal bluesy boogie woogie in the third movement. A free improvisation on tenor saxophone, complete with slap-tonguing, squealing and a soulful, masculine feel leads us into the title track, Caribbean Rhapsody.

The second composition, Caribbean Rhapsody, also composed by Sierra, is a joyful chamber piece with alternating reflective and spirited music. It bounces from the sensuous opening bolero to Latin riffs to music he heard on jukeboxes from cafes he frequented in Puerto Rico. Sierra wrote the piece as a musical reunion for saxophonist Carter and his cousin, violinist, Regina Carter. The juxtaposition of saxophone and violin, viola, cello and bass is a refreshingly new hybrid of musical elements.
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God bless James Carter for making music like this to challenge those who are bored with the ordinary and the repetitive. I love albums that blend genres when they work and this one works beautifully. The Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra is a true jazz-classical hybrid and would be pure classical if there weren't sections to give JC a chance to show off his improvisational skills. The opening movement sometimes sounds like it could be a lost Stravinsky piece. Altogether very stirring music.

The Caribbean Rhapsody itself brings to mind a modernized Stephane Grappelli / Hot Club sound. Regina Carter's violin playing on this piece is sensational. Which wouldn't matter if the music itself wasn't very tueneful. It is. Beautiful.

The two solo interludes by JC could have been approached as filler but that was not to be the case in this artist's very capable hands. Gorgeous soloing that's in service of creating beautiful music rather than showboating.

An altogether stellar outing.
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This is creative, unique, orchestral sax. Sax meets classical. If you want something like Sinatra, or other warm but even/steady/predictable background music, like for a dinner party, this is not what you should buy. This is art, it requires something closer to your full attention to enjoy it. It's not out there though, highly listenable, and truly playful. It is one of few albums where I will sit in my car until the current song ends. Try the song 'playful,' give it a minute or two to build, and then just. . .enjoy!
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I love the quality of the product particularly the artistry and sound. The Concerto is beautiful with all the nuances of classical and jazz music doing a tango. The music is artfully peppered with the brilliant technical prowess of James Carter. This music speaks to the far-reaching range of James Carter's gift. James Carter plays it all with regards to styles of jazz. This Concerto brilliantly demonstrates how James Carter a.k.a. "The Sax God" brings a symphony orchestra & a string quintet into his kingdom and makes heavenly music. This CD is a must-listen!
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James Carter is amazing on the saxophones, and the rhapsody itself skillfully combines James's extraordinary improvisational talents in a composition that is energetic and sensitive from start to finish.
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