Monday, August 24, 2009

"Heaven" is not quite...

James Carter - Heaven on Earth (Live)
Half Note Records
-due out Tomorrow

Not to editorialize, but the musicians here are fantastic: John Medeski of Martin, Medeski and Wood, Christian McBride with his own burgeoning solo career, and James Carter, a passionate and wild soloist in a live setting. Then what we have with "Heaven on Earth," I desperately want to say is a fantastic, must-get album: it displays musicianship, ability, and technical powers well beyond most musicians. But it lacks an ear, and what we get is half a fantastic album, restrained and gorgeous as on the bluesy "Street of Dreams," or thrashing and wandering as on the opener "Diminishing" and "Slam's Mishap." To be fair, Carter is know for his exploratory, often "un-melodic" improvisational style, but it bleeds into the set, and leaves the album too often without focus. A musician may not mind not having a "pay-off," but it would be remiss for the casual listener to sit down and try the often fruitless jams here. Try out Carter's down-tempo swagger on "Blue Leo," as well as the funky-fresh organ solo on the title track. Otherwise, save your cash for the more consistent "Live at Baker's."

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