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James Carter Organ Trio rocks Hoot!


This felt like the moment when the Adelaide Hills Hoot! Jazz Festival came of age.

From the moment Gerard Gibbs kicked into life his Hammond B3 organ, with a growl like a diesel engine starting, to the final wail of James Carter’s astonishing sax playing, Mt Barker’s Atelier Theatre became, for two hours, a rocking corner of Detroit.

The trio, also including Leonard King on precise drums and very occasional, excellent vocals, had obviously attracted hard-core fans, as well as the Hoot! Regulars and locals (including ubiquitous festival director Mikyla Gilbert, grooving away up the back).

Hoot! Grew out of a relatively sedate affair, with lots of Dixieland and trad. No more. This evening was another world altogether – two hours of funk-laden aural assault.

Carter is an imposing presence out front, even when swapping his sax for flute or the diminutive soprano horn. He tells us the set list straight off the top – seven tunes, several by him. Those seven tunes take two hours – half an hour longer than the programmed running time.

His playing is relentlessly virtuosic, with his circular breathing meaning the wild flow of notes is rarely broken. Wails, squeals, breathy notes, harmonics – Carter makes his instruments speak.

Gibbs underlays the whole with the distinctive sound of the Hammond, his left foot pumping out bass rhythms, swapping musical jokes – most incoherent to me – with an amused King on the drums.

“Going Home” kicks things off, with Carter setting the scene with frenetic runs on the soprano sax, and King’s “Let Us Toss Your Salad” ends it with Carter running the gamut on sax between breathy harmonics and truck-horn blare. In between is a range of tunes, including the standard “Killer Joe”, but it all mixes up into a hot, muscular wall of sound. Even when King and Gibbs are soloing, Carter stays connected with little exclamations on the sax while standing off to the side.

It’s a wholly joyful, entertaining, virtuosic affair and the audience laps it up.

Despite the standing ovation at the end, there’s little chance of an encore – Carter, Gibbs and King are spent, and so is the audience.


More Hoot! Jazz Festival reviews:

Vincent’s Chair

David Helbock Trio

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