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Chicago Tribune: Regina, Collective Celebrate Ella & Miles

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Sunday May 07, 2017

From Chicago Tribune

Review: Regina Carter, collective celebrate jazz greats Ella and Miles in novel ways
By: Howard Reich

The best musical tributes look forward, not back, illuminating how a jazz musician’s life impacted what was yet to come.

To varying degrees, the homages to singer Ella Fitzgerald and trumpeter Miles Davis that played Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center on Friday evening did just that, sparing listeners warmed-over readings of well-worn music.

In the case of Regina Carter’s tribute to this year’s Fitzgerald centennial, which opened the program, the formidable violinist reflected the spirit — rather than the letter — of the vocalist’s art. For though listeners around the world admire Fitzgerald’s brilliant scat technique and uncommonly plush sound, Carter offered something of her own: a warmly embracing tone and a heightened sense of lyricism.

So what did that have to do with Fitzgerald? In effect, Carter seemed to be saying that the intensely melodic and oft-rhapsodic character of her work was inspired, at least in part, by Fitzgerald’s model. But rather than take the obvious route of playing Fitzgerald’s hits, Carter chose what she calls the singer’s “B sides” — lesser-known songs that, by definition, would pre-empt comparisons to Fitzgerald’s most celebrated work.

Nearly all of Carter’s repertoire was drawn from her newly released album, “Ella: Accentuate the Positive,” its mostly lesser-known repertoire indeed enabling Carter to sound — above all — like Carter. Even so, in concert she played audio snippets of Fitzgerald’s voice, as if to remind listeners of what all the fuss was about.

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