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Regina Carter Offers New Perspectives on Jazz Tradition

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Thursday January 21, 2016

From Knoxville Mercury

Regina Carter Offers New Perspectives on Jazz Tradition
By: Matthew Everett

When Regina Carter decided she wanted to switch from classical music to jazz, in the mid 1980s, she faced a dilemma. She was studying at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, but the school didn’t have a jazz program. So she transferred to Oakland University, in Rochester, Mich., near her home town of Detroit, where she found a distinguished jazz department—but no formal program for violin.

“I remember going in to the big-band director there and telling him I want to learn jazz,” Carter says. “He said, okay, you’re going to sit right there with the alto saxophones. You’re going to be in the alto section. He said, breathe when they breathe, listen to how they phrase, just do everything they do. So basically I was learning how to be a saxophone player on violin.”

That unorthodox education paid off—in the 30 years since landing among those undergraduate saxophone players, Carter has become the most celebrated jazz violinist of her generation, known for a full, emotional tone, nearly flawless technique, and a restless creative imagination. With her own band, she has recorded jazz standards, traditional African music, country and folk tunes, and pieces from the classical canon, and she’s collaborated with Mary J. Blige, Billy Joel, Aretha Franklin, and Wynton Marsalis.

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