When I bought James Carter's latest CD "Gold Sounds," Brown Brothers Recordings, I knew next to nothing about the '90s indie rock band Pavement, which allmusic describes as "a combination of elliptic, cryptic underground American rock (and) unrepentant Anglophilia (with) a fondness for white noise, off-kilter arrangements and winding melodies." Although Carter and crew cover Pavement's music on the disk, I didn't need to know about the band.
With James Carter in the house, I knew it wouldn't sound like much I've heard before (OK, maybe a touch of "Head Hunters" and Lonnie Liston Smith). That's why I buy pretty much everything Carter does. "Gold Sounds" doesn't disappoint and its rockish back beat and electric organ on the opener "Stereo" don't mean there isn't plenty of Carter working his horns (three different ones, including contrabass sarrusophone) for all their worth. In fact, I'd have to classify Pavement's tunes as a great vehicle for him. On "My First Mine" he gets about as close to reproducing the human voice on a saxophone as I think you probably can. The music makes good jazz, too. "Here" is a fine ballad performance, for example.
As interesting as Carter is, as usual, pianist Cyrus Chestnut, whom I've only heard, and like, in a "straight" jazz context, is the revelation, especially when he plays the Fender Rhodes and B-3. Ali Jackson produces that back beat on drums and Reginald Veal does complimentary duty on basses (acoustic and electric). This is a jazz CD Pavement and other indie rock fans should like. Jazzwise, I don't know if I would rate it higher than my Carter favorite, "Chasin' the Gypsy," where he takes on the music of Django Reinhardt in stunningly creative fashion, but it's right up there.