In the decade since she left the String Trio, Carter has moved into new directions, as she sought a more mainstream profile and a more commercially viable career. Her versatility and her early classical training have served her well, as she developed a style that combined a traditional technical virtuosity with modern jazz harmony and a melodic sensibility that joins the disparate worlds of Stéphane Grappelli and Jean-Luc Ponty. At a time when major labels were weary of jazz artists, she was signed by Atlantic and Verve, and her work for these labels often reflects the compromise between commercial and artistic motivations that comes with the territory. When she is not overly constrained by marketing concepts, her playing can be first rate, as on Motor City Moments, her 1991 salute to her roots, which includes great jazz work with fellow Detroiters, including trumpeter Marcus Belgrave and her cousin, saxophone virtuoso James Carter, or on Spirit Song, her duet recording with pianist Kenny Barron. Let us hope that she will choose this kind of music-making for her Hill Auditorium date Monday, January 19.
[Originally published in January, 2004.]