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September 14, 2011

Q&A: Regina Carter

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Detroit native and virtuosic violinist Regina Carter is always in demand. Whether she is accompanying artists such as Faith Evans or Mary J. Blige or guesting with jazz alum Cassandra Wilson or Tom Harrell or putting out her own distinct recordings, the one thing that always remains a constant with Regina’s work is that she delivers varied, harmonically rich and brilliant performances that are inspiring, soulful and sonically lasting. Her album Motor City Movements is one of the greatest jazz albums to emerge in 2001 and since then she has continued to record, tour and collaborate with a variety of artists. Her latest album, Reverse Thread is excellent and presents a collection of African folk songs interpreted by Regina and an eclectic cast of musicians including Gary Versace, Mamadou Ba and Yocouba Sissoko. Here, Regina reflects on early influences, jazz and inspiration.

How or when did you first “discover” jazz?
In high school I first discovered jazz at about age 16. Someone gave me two recordings; a Jean-Luc Ponty recording, maybe called Renaissance and Noel Pointer record, Phantazia. And then I saw my first jazz concert shortly after that and it was St├ęphane Grappelli. It was amazing! First of all, because this music was so new – then to see this little old guy come out, and when he put his violin up and started to play, it wiped away all reference to age. And this magic – this energy that was coming from him completely swept me away. That’s when I knew. That’s when I got touched. I went home and learned all of the tunes and solos off the recordings I had.

What was the first record you ever purchased?
I guess it would have been a Michael White CD. A lot of people don’t know who he is, but that’s true of a lot of jazz violinists.

Name at least one jazz recording that “says it all” for you and why?
I’m going to go with the Eddie South classic 1937-1941. He does ‘On the Sunny Side of the Street’ and ‘A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody.’ My favorite piece on there is the classical piece ‘Praeludium and Allegro’ by Kreisler – but South puts a little swing on it – make that a big swing. It’s a real piece to show off your chops.

Who or what inspires you?
A lot of great musicians inspire me. All the musicians I work with inspire me musically. My mother inspires me; she’s an extremely strong person and she has a tendency to see the positive in a situation. If it’s a very bad or ugly situation, she can show you what you got out of it that’s positive. Watching dance inspires me – it’s connected to such a sense of freedom. It seems like that’s the freest a person could be.

If your life came with a theme song, what would it be?
Two tunes came to mind: “I’m Every Woman” and the old Parliament Funkadelic tune “One Nation Under a Groove.”

What influence has jazz had on your life?
It’s helped me to be more open to other types of music, people, and cultures … and food!

If you could have three wishes, what would they be?
1. To wipe away hate and violence and disease.
2. To have played with Miles before he left here.
3. To have continuous success with my music and to make a great difference in people’s lives.





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