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Artist: James Carter
Performance date: April 21, 1999
Publication: New York Post

New York Post; New York; Aug 21, 1999; CHIP DEFFAA;

Copyright New York Post Corporation Aug 21, 1999

TRYING to get a word with James Carter at the Blue Note Tuesday wasn't as easy as it once was - because of all the fans scrambling to get his autograph or a picture.

It was a scene you'd more likely expect at a rock event than at a jazz club.

But Carter is a phenomenon. Since bursting into prominence five years ago, he's recorded six well-received CDs, guest-starred with leaders like Herbie Hancock, acted in the film "Kansas City" and earned praise from such masters as Lester Bowie, who calls him "the greatest sax player to come around since Coltrane."

He started his set at a level of intensity many players take all night to build, audaciously swinging on tenor sax Don Byas' "Don's Idea," then dropping down for a solemn take on "Troubles of the World," which he then opened up - moaning, choking back anguished sobs through his horn.

There's a swagger to his full-bodied playing, whether he's tackling a number from decades ago or pushing the Free Jazz envelope.

Through tomorrow, he's sharing a double-bill - illogically - with Paquito D'Rivera, the Latin band leader whose latest CD, "Portraits of Cuba," won a Grammy.

D'Rivera's bright originals have an almost classical beauty of sound and form. But they inhabit a wholly different musical universe from Carter's bold scrawls.

Carter and D'Rivera are are both satisfying, but this double-bill felt weird - like being asked to appreciate a lobster dinner just after you've had lamb. You might like both dishes, but back to back?

Blue Note, 131 W. Third St., (212) 475-8592; $30 cover, $5 minimum; 9 and 11:30 p.m. Through tomorrow.


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