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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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At the Crossroads

Emarcy by Universal



1. Oh Gee
2. JC off the Set
3. Aged Pain
4. The Walking Blues
5. My Whole Life Through
6. Walking The Dog
7. Lettuce Toss Yo' Salad
8. Misterio
9. Ramblin' Blues
10. Come Sunday
11. Tis the Old Ship of Zion
12. The Hard Blues

James Carter - Alto sax, tenor sax, baritone sax, flute
Gerard Gibbs - Organ
Leonard King Jr. - Drums, vocals
Bruce Edwards - Guitar (tracks 1, 3, 6)
Keyon Harrold - Trumpet (tracks 4, 9, 10)
Vincent Chandler - Trombone (tracks 4, 9, 10)
Miche Braden - Vocals (tracks 4, 9, 11)
Brandon Ross - Guitar (tracks 4, 9. 12)
Eli Fountain - Tambourines (track 11)


Organ trios and quartets have a distinctive ability to excite. Perhaps it's the organ pedals, which lay down a compulsive beat, or the fact that such groups are often dedicated to swinging without pretensions. Whatever it is, James Carter's third CD with his organ trio is full of excitement.

Carter blows with uninhibited power, adding some hints of the avant-garde to spice up the mix. Some of his screeching high notes can be painful on the ears but most of his extrovert playing is acceptable as well as inventive and electrifying. His colleagues in the trio fulfil their roles commendably. Organist Gerard Gibbs often simply plays the pedals, while drummer Leonard King Jr. inserts plenty of thrilling breaks. And various guest musicians add variety to the music.

The opening Oh Gee is a typically simple tune well-suited to an organ group, with James wailing on tenor sax and Gerard's pedals supplying a driving bass. Carter switches to baritone sax for Aged Pain and The Walking Blues. The latter's repetitive refrain ("Walk right in, walk right out") threatens to become tiresome but James's foghorn-like baritone retains one's attention. Miche (apparently pronounced "Mickey") Braden sings and scats in rhythm-and-blues style.

My Whole Life Through presents a tantalising contrast: a ballad where Carter plays passionately and Gibbs savours a kaleidoscope of organ sounds. Drummer Leonard King Jr. arranged the Lettuce Toss Yo' Salad and gives himself a pivotal role in thrusting the music along, as it veers between jazz-rock and straight swing. Carter's alto sax shrieks manically.

Misterio brings another contrast: a placid number with Carter rhapsodising on soprano sax. Ramblin' Blues is real down-home and dirty, with growling and soaring trumpet and trombone. Leonard King Jr. supplies the vocal on Duke Ellington's Come Sunday with a quavering voice and dubious intonation. Miche Braden's singing is more secure in Tis The Old Ship of Zion. After she has sung a chorus, James Carter takes a deeply emotional one before the trio comes in to mix the gospel song with a New Orleans feel.

Carter opens The Hard Blues with a noise like an air-raid siren and then plays a fairly restrained blues which gradually disintegrates into fragments and a free-for-all. It neatly sums up the album's fine balance between straightforward bluesy swing and free-form: a strange mixture which works remarkably well in the hands of these very capable musicians.

Tony Augarde

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