Joseph Carter III - In The Now

(click songs for a 30-second sample)

1. Inside Out (6:31)
2. Summer Song (4:28)
3. Baby Sweets (5:46)
4. Goodbye My Love (6:57)
5. In The Now (5:15)
6. Dream You Awake (9:08)
7. Hey Bubba (4:22)
8. Goodbye My Love (radio mix) (3:58)
9. Dream You Awake (radio mix) (3:57)

With In The Now, Joseph felt a deep need to stretch, to find a more expansive horizon which would not only express the more profound levels him and his band had reached in their playing, but to realize the new concep-tions of music he was hearing.

Walter, Stuart and Joseph have been playing together for several years now, and Mr. Carter felt their "playing and communication was beginning to express a more spiritual connection. To reveal this, I wanted the record to be more aggressive by the perspective of my guitar playing, and again, for it to be centered around the com-positions. I truly feel that at this point, with In The Now, I have firmly developed my own sound as a guitarist and composer. I had the title cut in my head for quite a while. I sat down one day and within twelve hours, I had every note for every instrument transposed and written out. I really feel with this piece I have developed something original. This has also given birth to an idea for a piece that is forty-five minutes long which utilizes everything that I am musically. It is going to be a piece that uses for its texture; a woodwind quintet, string quartet and some form of jazz group. I am ready to enter into this new sound."

"Inside Out", the opening cut of In The Now, is a bold and exuberant song prominently featuring a long dialogue between Carter's continually challenging and downright dangerous guitar work and the dynamic, intimate and warm piano playing of Stuart Waters. This continues the trademark aspect of Joe's last record, Straight Ahead Backwards, in even more evocative and compelling ways. The song is well enforced by a vol-canic rhythm section which punctuates and accents every chord and transition with a strong, muscular pulse; giving Carter and Waters a solid foundation from which they efffortlessly soar, weaving intricate labyrinths of brilliant dialogue.

From the onset, In The Now is more agressive and spiritual than emotional, with the musicians developing a deeper knowledge of each other. Truly about featuring compositions as well as soloing, and intermingled in such a way that is more technically aggressive and assured, more forceful and explosive. "Summer Song" certainly evokes that warm and pungent season - right out of the gate. The melody is well written yet sounds simple and is totally original, which is truly difficult when composing in a calypso style. "Summer Song" lays right in the groove, but is complexly constructed. Carter fits all the chord changes it is going through, and unlike most guitarists, does not solo freely over all the board, but through each chord change; evoking the melody in sharp and fluid bursts of effervescent In The Now notes. This track features Bob Murway on drums and he lays down a rock solid tempo. The Swiss could set their clocks to his beat - the time doesn't falter a millisecond.

"Baby Sweets" is a cool, burning song which was written for famed drummer, Walter Perkins - to feature his infamous shuffle blues groove - as well as in remembrance of Bill Doggett whom Walter and Joe had played with on an earlier unreleased record. Here you have a highly sophisicated, arranged blues. You can hear the influence of the Bill Doggett style. A blues much in the tradition of "Honky Tonk", yet in taking up that concept, Carter's trio displays a deeply sure footed and original interpretation exe-cuted with profound excitement. No one else plays this way, or does this type of thing - where you are weav-ing in and out of all these styles with mercurial ease. It is obviously second nature to Mr. Carter, and highly impressive. Listen towards the end of this song for John Abbey's taste-ful and well crafted electric bass solo. Throughout, Mr. Perkins' percussive abilities are nothing short of vital, provocative and energizing. "Goodbye My Love" expresses, in quite an incandescent and sublte way, one of Joseph's strong points, and that is as a knowlegdable composer and very acute arranger. You can hear the bright, masterful conception and how perfectly it is arranged. This is obviously the most commercial track on the record and features Bob Murway on drums again, who brings a funky West Coast element much akin to the playing of Bernard Purdie. Joseph takes his time with the solo, which is the center point of the song, develop-ing it, building it like a master craftsman or inventor. It brings to mind flying, and I cannot help but think of the Wright Brothers whenever I listen to this - of their great excitement and joy at seeing one of their planes take off. I imagine Mr. Carter had a similiar experience when this song took flight - or certainly while recording these solos. They shift from long harmonic lines into bending notes (highly uncommon in jazz) and playing blues style. Part of Joe's concept is soloing through the chord changes as well as over them, finding a balance between the two which is exhiliraring. At the end, Carter takes the song out for a slow, smoldering burn. There is something very elusive, mysterious and intriquing about this song and it overtakes you. I found myself listening to it countless times, trying to grasp something in it, and everytime the song ended again, I found myself lost in the ecstasy of the music. "In The Now", the title cut of the record, is replete with a great many surprises, sure to take the listener off guard. It starts off with a very brisk physical introduction that is at once mysterious, cold and strik-ing. Based on a tonal/non tonal approach, "In The Now" begins in 3/4 time, very conversational with all the instruments. It is a song which swings very hard, a music that speaks in dark sea tones, composed with strict limitations using dialogue technique; tonal and non-tonal figures leading after the solos into a Mingus type vibe between bass and trumpet; leading further into the darker hemispheres of the woodwind quintet, totally unexpected within the song but completely right, as far off as it may seem to be. Every note for each instrument is transposed and written out and beautifully resolved in an ending which brings this stark and daring composition full cir-cle. If this is indicative at all of the direction in which Carter is moving - musicians, take heed. Music such as this has not been heard in ages, if at all in jazz. This should be a record which defines a future movement for it is an historic recording - it is the first time in history that a jazz quintet has been used with a woodwnd quintet.

"Dream You Awake" takes you into a trance like world easy to surrender to as you listen to it. An artfully arranged introduction moves rather swiftly into a sensitive, light melody pulling back and forth between guitar and piano like the tides of the ocean swaying between two shores. What this song does is stand on the proverbial razor's edge where it could break asunder at any second, ready to burst or collapse, but doesn't - it keeps swinging. This edgy tune which is alert and dangerous, almost exploding at the seams, takes off into the outer hemspheres constantly. Every chord change is made, floating through the time. There is within this song very exciting musical expression, tasteful and with character so defined and pronounced. It is the hallmark of an evolving technique you can truly hear expanding. Walter Perkins accents with these sharp, machine gun like blasts or percussive bombs, sounding throughout the song, ever so appropriately. Alternating between these light and dark melodies, Carter and his trio paint a chiaroscuro of sound that is enchanting. Listen to the perfect execu-tion of counterpoint, as the guitar and piano become one instrument, weaving in and out of each other before returning to the melody. A finely crafted composition arranged with consummate skill. Surely another song which musicians would love to wrestle with, and bound to be reinterpreted in the decades to come, but perhaps never as astutely as this.

"Hey Bubba", the final cut of the record, was written for Bubba Brooks, who used to play with Bill Doggett, as well as Carter. Joe wanted to have him on this record because of their connection, and felt it was a great honor. The object was to do a real church piece: a bluesy, down home spiritual to really relax and play on. There is herein a freedom and facility that comes out of pure joy. Bubba's heart-felt, sensual vibrato playing is the bridge between swing and bebop. His playing is post Ben Webster/Coleman Hawkins; deeply rooted in Paul Gonzalez/Duke Ellington. The tone of his saxohone, and the way he breathes out every note, is enough to render the most insensate person with a torrent of emotion. I'm sure he broke many a woman's heart with such poetic feeling. On trumpet, Mr. Peter Kaufman is featured and is real loose and has a harmonically great tone - his playing floats over the time with the gentle abandon of a wild bird - and is an addition which certainly elevates and rounds out this trio. "Hey Bubba" is a tightly arranged blues which again shows Joe's tremendously developed ability for composing and structuring songs that are deceptively simple, yet so finely crafted that they transcend their style. This is not just a blues song which the musicians are vamping over, soloing without regard to the chords, but an intricately crafted composition which is a result of a uniquely gifted musician with a boundless imagination.

In The Now further outlines the prodigious musical journey which Joseph Carter had begun years ago with the New York Jazz & Soul Project, in even more and intrepid unforseen ways. The scope of this record reaches beyond that of Straight Ahead Backwards by expressing Joe's new compositional direction in such a startling manner that one is continually shocked and seduced. Straight jazz, calypso, blues, avant garde and twenty first century music all fused into a vigorous, expansive and seamless unity - that shatters all formal demarcations - setting a daring new standard for more evolved jazz, which reaches beyond the traditional framework, and creates its own. In The Now indicates quite strongly that Carter will become one of the foremost compositional inventors of contemporary music. It will be intriquing to hear the directions in which he moves, especially with the promise of his woodwind, string and jazz ensemble.

At last, a musician whose future is greatly anticipated and awaited, for not since the days of Monk, Mingus, Miles and Coltrane have we heard such fresh and groundbreaking innovations which test the established standards and simultaneously set new precedents. It will be a treasure to hear each forth coming record, which you can surely guarantee will be rife with unheralded surprises.

Written by John Hanche