Violinist Regina Carter has crafted an intricate, poly-rhythmic journey steeped in African folk, with strains of worldbeat, gospel, classical, soundtrack (for a movie that doesn’t exist) and even klezmer, but make no mistake about it. This is a jazz album.
It’s trite to call her a genius but she won what’s known as the genius grant from the MacArthur Foundation so she could properly effectuate her vision. To that end, she found Yacouba Sissoko, master of the 21-string kora, a cross between a lute and a harp indigenous to West Africa. Its sound, especially as played by Sissoko, gives Reverse Thread its street cred, so to speak. When combined with Carter’s darting, skipping, flying violin, the effect is oftentimes dizzying, and alternately soothing, like a dreamy convivial raft ride down the Congo.
Now add accordion to the bubbling cauldron. Take that violin, kora and accordion triumvirate and put it in front—or in some cases on the side—of guitar, bass, and drums, and you have got one big ol’ Major League piece of work from this Detroit fiddler who debuted in 1995, seven albums ago.
It’s going to be hard for Carter to ever top this one: “Mwana Talitambula” was transcribed from field recordings in Uganda. “Hiwumbe Awumba” is taken from inspirational lore that god is meant to be feared (although there are no vocals within its 12 tracks, Carter actually communicates the dread but then the uplift of this particular track with her ax as an ode to human resiliency). “Un Aguinaldo” subtly layers elements of Puerto Rico and India into this Africa experience.
Reverse Thread, to be enjoyed properly, demands attention. It is the opposite of “lite jazz.”
In A Word: Serious