4) Regina Carter - Reverse Thread (E1 Music)
Expectations were high for Reverse Thread, the culmination of years of study for Regina Carter, who was awarded the MacArthur foundation's much-coveted $500,000 "Genius Grant" in 2006. The leading jazz violinist of her generation, Carter has explored a lot of musical territory in her 16-year solo career, from classical to hip-hop, and, naturally, plenty of jazz-related territory in between. Reverse Thread is an elegant exercise in cross-genre line-blurring. To create her pliable hybrid genre, Carter delved into the music of Africa, the cradle of civilization and ultimate source of all American popular music forms.
Inspired by field recordings found in New York's World Music Institute, Carter layers ancient-sounding melodies over harmonies more typical of modern jazz. At various points throughout the album, the music is evocative of Argentinian tango ("Un Aguinaldo Pa Regina"), traditional African music ("Hiwumbe Awumba"), Appalachian fiddle tunes (parts of most every track), and reggae ("Juru Nani / God be With You"). Helping her navigate the broad stylistic territory is an impressive band including guitarist Adam Rogers, bassists Mamadou Ba and Chris Lightcap, accordionists Will Holshouser and Gary Versace, drummer Alvester Garnett and most notably, Kora artist Yacouba Sissoko. The arrangements are tailored to feature each player's voice clearly and effectively. I've gone back to Reverse Thread for many repeat listens and I plan on doing so for a good while.
Listen to the Staff Picks channel here