Born Regina Carter. Education: attended New England Conservatory and Oakland University. Addresses: Record company--Atlantic Records, 1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104.

Jazz violinist Regina Carter began playing at the age of four in a class that used the Suzuki method. This method of instruction does not require a child to read music; they learn by hearing a song and trying to mimic the notes with a tiny violin. In an issue of Downbeat, Carter joked, "They had just started to use the Suzuki method at the school where I was studying. And I don't think they got it quite right. You see, they didn't check my playing against the real song for accuracy, like they're supposed to. If they had, I don't think I'd be playing violin today!" She just released her second jazz solo album called Something for Grace.

Carter was exposed to a variety of music growing up in Detroit where she started playing the piano at the age of two and switched to violin at four. Her early influences were mainly classical music. She performed with the Detroit Civic Symphony. "People are only used to hearing violin in European classical music or country music," Carter once said. She proved to audiences that the violin is capable of playing many types of music--from Latin to Rhythm & Blues.

When she attended the prestigious Cass Technical High School in Detroit, she listened to Motown, Latin, Middle Eastern, and R & B styles of music. She told Downbeat, "There's a big Latin community--Mexican Village--and we used to go down to Clark Park where you can hear all kinds of music all the time." During high school, she also developed a love for jazz after she heard Jean-Luc Ponty. She recalled, "I just immediately fell in love with it and started studying jazz a little bit in high school." After high school, Carter attended the New England Conservatory in Boston, Massachusetts and Oakland University in Michigan. During that time, she belonged to a multi- cultural band that played all types of music--including lyrics in Arabic.

In 1987 Carter joined an all-female jazz band based in Detroit. The band, called Straight Ahead, performed often in Detroit and gained enough of a following to grab the attention of Atlantic Records. Carter recorded two albums with Straight Ahead and then decided to move to New York to pursue other interests. In New York, Carter worked with Oliver Lake, Max Roach, and the Uptown String Quartet. In 1993 she became a regular violinist for the well-known String Trio of New York, a jazz band that formed in 1979. The group performs avant-garde and post-bop styles of jazz, with plenty of improvisation--Regina Carter's passion. Her first album with the String Trio, Octagon, received rave reviews. Jon Andrews of Downbeat wrote, "Regina Carter's arrival as a violinist, along with new material, changes the formula significantly. Throughout Octagon, Carter plays with a clear, pure tone...." In 1996 the String Trio released Blues...?. Jon Andrews again approved of Carter's effort. He wrote, "She maintains a beautiful tone while strutting and gliding through these tracks, including her own reggae-based 'Hurry Up and Wait." Blues...? covers tunes from Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Lee Morgan as well as originals from bassist John Lindberg.

In 1995 Carter also worked with bassist Mark Helias on his album Loopin' the Cool. Ellery Eskelin played tenor saxophone on the record. Mark Corbett of Downbeat commented, "With the Carter/Eskelin frontline, Helias has created a provocative combination--the tenor/violin mix is startling, especially on the many unison sections that feature the two in tandem." He also remarked, "Carter exercises complete control, avoiding the high-harmonic flurries to which other violinists often gravitate; check her feature 'El Baz'." Other artists have benefited from Carter's unique jazz/R & B violin including: Antonio Hart, Faith Evans, Vanessa Rubin, Daniel Johnston, Mary J. Blie, and Patti Labelle.

In 1995 Carter recorded her first solo effort for Atlantic Records, simply titled Regina Carter. Her producer, Victor Bailey focused on the "smooth jazz" radio audiences and tried to make the record easy listening. Carter explained, "There's a certain formula for how a tune has to be put together. It might be that you need to state the melody a second time or a little bit more so people really remember that melody. And alot of times I find, on records that are more for ... commercial radio, the solos should be very limited because people aren't really listening for that." Carter is aware that if her solo records don't sell, the record company may dump her. She manages to keep her perspective. She said, "The record isn't my goal. My goal is to continue to write and play music that's true to me, and if I remember that always, no one can take that away from me."

Carter dedicated her second solo effort Something for Grace to her mother, whom Carter praises for her encouragement and support. This album was also targeted for the smooth-jazz radio format. Ben Ratliff of the New York Times calls the format "jazz's blander shadow-world." However, Frank-John Hadley of Downbeat was impressed. He wrote, "Carter is her own woman and she records the kind of music that she deems suitable for honest expression...." Arif Mardin produced three of the tracks on the album. Carter admitted to being a little tense about working with him. "We were all uptight," she recalled. "But then Arif walked in, ordered lunch, and instantly broke the tension. He knows exactly how to bring the best out of people." Hadley wrote, "{Mardin} frames Carter's adoration of melody and modest flair for improvisation...."

Carter built her reputation as a great jazz violinist with years of solid live performances that left critics dazzled. One of her greatest achievements was performing with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra on their international tour of Blood on the Fields. In January 1998, Carter appeared at New York's Sweet Basil for a series of concerts. Ben Ratliff of the New York Times wrote, "she proved something that perhaps didn't need proving except for the fact that there's so little evidence of it: that the violin's role in deeply swinging jazz is perfectly natural...." He described her music as "rapid, hornlike chromatic improvising, whinnying, double- stopped fragments of the blues and ... glassy harmonics that sounded like pan pipes."

Carter gives all the credit for her talent to God. She said, "What I'm doing and I'm playing is not really mine. I'm being used as a vessel, and I have to thank God." Her liner notes read, "Praise GOD from whom all blessings flow." No doubt she considers Suzuki one of those many blessings from God.

by Christine Morrison

Regina Carter's Career

Started playing violin at age four--learned by Suzuki method; exposed to variety of music in Detroit including Latin, R & B, and jazz; joined jazz band Straight Ahead, 1987; recorded two albums with Straight Ahead and performed in concert often; left Straight Ahead and moved to New York, 1992; played with Oliver Lake, Max Roach, and Uptown String Quartet; joined String Trio of New York, 1993; recorded two albums with String Trio of New York: Octagon and Blues...?; worked with bassist Mark Helias on Loopin' the Cool, 1995; recorded first jazz solo album for Atlantic Jazz titled Regina Carter, 1995; toured with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra for Blood on the Fields epic, 1996; recorded second solo album for Atlantic Jazz titled Something for Grace, 1997.

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