Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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James Carter Organ Trio

  • Out of Nowhere [Half Note, 2005] A-
  • At the Crossroads [EmArcy, 2011] B+

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Out of Nowhere [Half Note, 2005]
Though 2004's Live at Baker's Keyboard Lounge is as warm a blowing session as he's laid down, this all too self-sufficient virtuoso gravitates to concept albums, in part because he's no writer. This can be tricky--his Billie Holiday tribute is dreadful, and his Pavement covers reflect poorly on the alt-rock groove. But the organ-trio format so derided in jazzbo land suits his vulgar gusto perfectly--it's made for showoffs and delights in the impolite sounds he can extract from any number of saxophones at will. My favorite pits his avant-honking tenor against guest Hamiet Bluiett's avant-honking baritone on guest James Blood Ulmer's "Highjack." Ulmer also gets to sing "Little Red Rooster." The vocal-less finale is "I Believe I Can Fly." The organist is Gerard Gibbs. A-

At the Crossroads [EmArcy, 2011]
This occasional unit's live 2005 Out of Nowhere was a honking session, beefing up the young world-champeen multisaxer with Hamiet Bluiett's bari master class and Blood Ulmer's harmolodic Son House shtick. The most luscious beef on this more contained studio job is provided by guest singer Miche Braden sinking her chops into Fluffy Hunter's playfully filthy "Walking Blues" and a lounge through Muddy Waters's "Ramblin' Blues." The lounge feel is shored up by sometime guitarist Bruce Edwards, who if he ain't Ulmer at least ain't Jim Hall. Gotta admit it's a relief, though, when sometime guitarist Brandon Ross disrupts the long Julius Hemphill-penned closer. Even the organist, who does his job manfully throughout and whose name is Gerard Gibbs, avants around on that one. B+