Violinist Regina Carter follows in the politically conscious footsteps of drummer Max Roach and bassist…
Violinist Regina Carter follows in the politically conscious footsteps of drummer Max Roach and bassist Charles Mingus with Swing States: Harmony in the Battleground. She offers a message of peace, as well as an entreaty for mutual respect and an appeal to make a difference at the ballot box.
Interspersed with spoken-word snippets, the album consists of standards associated with several states, some of which are home to Carter and her bandmates. A melancholic rendition of “Dancing in the Street,” hailing from the leader’s native Detroit, precedes pianist Jon Batiste talking about Louisiana and the power of music. Over haunting rhythmic percolations, Carter embellishes the Motown classic with elegant lyricism and trades lines with trumpeter John Daversa. The latter’s warm, sinewy phrases flow with suave facility.
A moving and contemplative interpretation of “We Shall Overcome” conceptually and temporally bisects the recording. Carter showcases her virtuosity as she plays unaccompanied the iconic civil rights tune with a sublime mix of wistfulness and hope.
The pieces that follow are of a brighter mood. Daversa imbues the languid “Swanee River (Florida)” with soul and passion, and Carter solos with her signature melodic eloquence. Around her and Daversa’s laid-back duet, the ensemble creates a pastoral ambience. In contrast, “On Wisconsin!” is replete with whimsy and exuberance. The rhythm section lays down a celebratory cadence. Batiste’s percussive chords build a dynamic improvisation with breathtaking agility. And Carter’s own lithe and energetic extemporization builds to an explosive climax that folds into drummer Harvey Mason’s marching beats. The piece closes with collective laughter and the violin's humorous sound effects.
With much needed optimism and superlative artistry, Carter has created a paean to what unites the people of this country in an attempt to transcend petty divisions. As such, the theme of the release is simultaneously timely and timeless. - Hrayr Attarian https://open.spotify.com/album/3FfUE8sr8TIOdPDOWViytP?si=Yig9Gvy1TQeN10Xrtz5DFA Orginal publication date: September 30, 2020