[Dixielandjazz] Regina Carter plays "Il Cannone" in NYC.

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Wed Nov 5 10:21:56 PST 2003

Here is the NY Times review of Regina Carter's performance at Lincoln
Center with the 1743 Guarneri. last Monday night.

Steve Barbone

November 5, 2003 - NEW YORK TIMES


The Specter of Paganini Hovering Slyly Over a Performance


When Regina Carter became the first jazz musician to play Nicolò
Paganini's 1743 Guarneri del Gesù violin, known as Il Cannone (The
Cannon), it was a triumph for jazz. Il Cannone is owned and selectively
bestowed on musicians by the city of Genoa, and some traditionalists had
insisted that letting anything but classical music be played on the
precious instrument would devalue it forever; others pointed out that
Paganini himself was an improviser. Ms. Carter played a concert with Il
Cannone in Genoa in 2001 and went on to record an album with it.

It must have been a diplomatic feat to get permission for the violin to
travel to New York City, where Ms. Carter played it on Monday night at
Alice Tully Hall.

Unfortunately she used it for music that sounded as if she was more
daunted by the instrument's pedigree than inspired by the passions it
had stirred.

Ms. Carter has long been a straightforward mainstream player, genially
extending the jazz violin legacy of Stephane Grappelli, Joe Venuti and
Stuff Smith. She treats melodies with jaunty intimacy, toying with
syncopation before working her way up to sliding trills and doublestops.
She's fond of swing-era rhythms, easygoing bossa novas and
downward-bending notes that summon the blues. She also studies singers;
on Monday night, she drew a song from Betty Carter and two from Ella
Fitzgerald, including "My Reverie," based on Debussy.

She used her own violin for an introductory set, revealing the contrast
with Il Cannone's rich, weathered, tangy sound. Il Cannone was more
throaty, more insistent and apparently louder.

If anything of Paganini's specter lingered in the violin, it seemed to
encourage Ms. Carter to luxuriate in portamento, sliding flamboyantly
through the melodies of ballads, reveling in sultry tone.

For her set with Il Cannone, she was backed by a small string ensemble,
conducted by Ettore Strata, that often turned urbane music into
bachelor-pad pabulum. She chose pieces with classical connections,
including "My Reverie," an arrangement of Ravel's "Pavane for a Dead
Princess" with saccharine new chords, and a version of Astor Piazzolla's
"Oblivion" that completely separated its pretty melody from Piazzolla's
usual angst and tension.

Ms. Carter's playing was assured and moderately playful, but always
reserved and genteel. The tunes also filibustered, with rounds of solos
for Ms. Carter's pianist (Werner Vana Gierig), bassist (Chris Lightcap)
and drummer (Alvester Garnett) in nearly every one.

Paganini, by all accounts, was not a genteel character. His performances
were so showy and overwhelming that spectators believed his arm was
guided by the devil.

It's too bad that when Paganini's violin finally got into Ms. Carter's
hands, no one would suspect the same thing.

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