Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Forgotten Man...

John Carter was never well served by the music industry, considering the stature he holds within the improvising musician community. There have been numerous albums devoted to his music and many compositions that pay tribute to his musical significance. But try and buy one of his many recordings - now, that's a different story.

When I began listening to improvised music in any serious way, I was repeatedly told that I "simply must" listen to John Carter. I began with his five part Roots and Folklore: Episodes in the Development of American Folk Music - a serial composition of five suites. Little did I know at the time that those five recordings were only a mere drop in the creative bucket belonging to John Carter. Based on these five recordings I assumed Carter was exclusively a clarinet player (I was wrong - early on in his career he played tenor sax, alto sax and flute in addition to the clarinet), Carter played in larger ensembles (wrong again - he has recorded solo albums, duo albums, quartet albums and quintet albums). Sadly, (as I have already alluded to) most of those records are no longer available.

As I mentioned in the Marty Ehrlich post, I was lucky enough to experience his Octet live during their supporting tour for Castles of Ghana (which is the second part of the aforementioned serial composition of five suites and no longer available from Grammavision Records). From that point forward I became fascinated by his music. While he has created music which gets its inspiriation from the Black experience in America and exhibits aspects of folk music, it is squarely situated within the avant garde/free jazz universe. This ain't world music and it sure as hell ain't folk music.

John Carter had a long association with trumpet player Bobby Bradford. They recorded many times over their career and sustained a musical symbiotic relationship. To my ears, Bradford kept Carter from getting too abstract and Carter kept Bradford from becoming "too safe".

In both of our offerings within this post we hear them together.

The album (here), Flight For Four, was released on the Flying Dutchman label in 1969 and is nowhere to be found except, in rare cases, in vinyl format. The playlist is, in terms of CD standards, short and but sweet and looks like this:

1. Call to the Festival (9:10)
2. The Second Set (8:54)
3. Woman (7:33)
4. Abstractions For Three Lovers (6:42)
5. Domino (8:18)

John Carter plays alto and tenor saxes as well as flute. Bobby Bradford plays trumpet. They are accompanied by Tom Williamson on bass and Buzz Freeman on drums.

The concert (here) is billed as: John Cartet Quintet at the Willisau (Switzerland) Jazz Festival, September 02, 1989. John Carter is on clarinet, Bobbby Bradford is on trumpet, Craig Harris is on trombone, Fred Hopkins is on bass and Andrew Cyrille is on drums. The playlist is:

1) 27:25 - Shaddy Two (Bobby Bradford)
2) 01:57 - Announcement John Carter
3) 09:52 - Ode To The Flower Maiden
4) 21:28 - Encounter
5) 00:43 - Announcement John Carter
6) 12:54 - On A Country Road
7) 20:59 - untitled

This is music by a jazz master who has been sadly forgotten. Keep this precious music alive! Hunt his music down. Look for the recordings cited above as well as these masterpieces:

John Carter died March 31, 1991 in Inglewood, California.

Enjoy this treat!

1 comment:

  1. Many thanks on what you wrote about John. I can say John because we met several times after a long conversation in 1979 at the Moers Festival. We were corresponding until shortly before John died. At that time a arranged concert at a small church in the Black Forrest (south of Germany) Sorry, that I couldn't pay enough for a concert with John. He seemed to have good teeth so my dental work was not needed.