There isn't a musician who comes through the GAM Foundation's Jazz series who hasn't mastered his or her instrument.
Monday, Regina Carter amazed the audience, thoroughly using up her violin and not only turning it into a spirited Southern fiddle but a Japanese Kokyu as well.
Classically trained, Carter has delved into jazz and enriched the art form with her efforts. Not only her notes jumped from the violin but the variety of emotions they were meant to convey.
Joining her to round out the sextet was pianist Xavier Davis, bassist Matthew Parrish, clarinetist Darryl Harper, accordionist Gary Versace and drummer Alvester Garnett, all more than able musicians on their own but definitely there to showcase Carter.
The audience was held in rapt attention from the beginning, seemingly there to drink in every sound Carter could issue.
Things heated up early with the rendition of "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" written by Ella Fitzgerald and Al Feldman. The group took the nursery-rhyme song and played it as a complex number that showcased each of the musicians especially Harper. The song subtracted each musician after his or her turn in the spotlight leaving percussionist Garnett to keep the refrain alive on the drums.
Sitting out was Versace, who sat with the audience off to the side wearing his sizable accordion. The rest of the band used up more chairs in the audience while he and Carter jumped into "Oblivion" from Carter's classically-rooted 2003 album "Paganini: After a Dream." In contrast to the previous playful number, the duo brought a lovely, sad vibe, sounding appropriate for a French street corner on the last warm day of Autumn.
Perhaps to highlight the sextet's diversity, the group jumped into the next number with Carter sounding identical to the aforementioned stringed Japanese instrument. The piece then transitioned into a more rhythmic and jazz-traditional tune. The musicianship was excellent, especially Carter's, but the whole production did come across as highly rehearsed. That isn't a bad thing; The musicians were playing at a high level, walking a musical tightrope, choosing to perfect the polished performance more often than delving into the highly-improvisational aspects of jazz.
Perhaps the night's highlight, and keeping the theme of the nursery alive, Carter introduced "Little Brown Jug," as a song, "I learned when I was four years old, just after 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."' Lots of other familiar phrases from other tunes were peppered throughout and the sextet seemed to really cut loose during the number.An encore featured the perfect ending piece with the beautiful, "I'll Be Seeing You," written to Carter's late mother, closing the show and the jazz season.