Full score jazz

New quadragenarian saxophonist James Carter and his quintet open the festival's proceedings at the Opera House on Tuesday.

james carter 88 (photo credit: )
james carter 88
(photo credit: )
It is fitting that, with the Tel Aviv Jazz Festival completing its second decade this year, one of the big names in the four-day line-up (February 24-27), has also reached a milestone birthday. New quadragenarian saxophonist James Carter and his quintet open the festival's proceedings at the Opera House on Tuesday (8:30 p.m.), with a program based on his recent Present Tense release. The festival opener is a double header with the later slot (11 p.m.) featuring the aptly named All Stars Jazz Band led by stellar sax players Billy Harper and Bennie Maupin, to perform a tribute to late trumpeter Lee Morgan. Harper and Maupin are to receive consummate support from trumpeters Jeremy Pelt - leading his own combo later in the festival - and David Weiss, veteran pianist George Cables, bassist Dwayne Burno and celebrated drummer Billy Hart. Planned for the second evening, Carter changes mindset and artistic intent to front an organ trio, including Gerald Gibbs on Hammond B3 organ and Leonard King on drums. "Yes, it's a very bluesy program," said Carter about his second show, based on material from his 2004 album Out of Nowhere, recorded with Gibbs and King. "I don't normally play two very different gigs at the same festival, so it will be interesting for me," he adds. In fact diversity has always been a feature of Carter's career. "I come from Detroit, the home of Motown," the reedman explains. "It all comes from the same source. Without jazz there wouldn't be a Motown. You could say that, without Louis Armstrong there would be no Stevie Wonder. I can play with a big band one day, play top 40 stuff the next, and then go back to jazz the day after that. Not only does that pay your bills, it also gives you musical and artistic fulfillment." Carter's versatility also extends to his choice of instruments. Besides his repertoire and high-energy approach, Carter has made a name for himself as a proponent of the full range of saxophones, from the high-pitched sopranino to the gargantuan and rarely played bass variety. "I think you have to show reverence to the whole saxophone family," he says. "The bass sax is the mother instrument, that is the genesis of the whole range." We're not just talking gimmicks and sex appeal here. "The bass sax grounds you and adds so much to the sound range you can produce. I think every serious saxophonist has to handle the bass sax at some stage." Mind you, Carter is aware of the logistical considerations. "I'm not sure I'll be bringing my baritone saxophone with me to Israel. It's a bit big to carry around. But I'll certainly come with tenor and soprano saxes, and a flute, and maybe a bass clarinet too. That will give me plenty of options. Elsewhere in the four day program, Pelt will lead his November quintet including stellar saxophonist JD Allen, flutist James Newton will join forces with Israeli saxophonist Albert Beger and Nazareth-born guitarist Michel Sajrawy to present an intriguing crossover program culled from jazz, rock and Arabic music. As is custom every year, the festival roster also includes some crossover and non-jazzy endeavor, including rocker Rami Fortis's experimental three-part musical odyssey on Friday evening, and a band led by 14-year-old pianist Tomer Bar with special guest pop-singer Daniel Salomon. Meanwhile, New York-based Israeli pianist Omer Klein's Friday afternoon gig will feature jazz drummer Ziv Ravitz and the latter's iconic singer-songwriter aunt Yehudit Ravitz. For more Tel Aviv Jazz Festival information, visit: cinema.co.il and israel-opera.co.il or call (03) 606-0800 and (03) 692-7777.