String Trio of New York

An Outside Job (France, 1993)

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Recorded in Paris in 1993 during Regina Carter's brief stint with John Lindberg's String Trio of New York -- she had just arrived in town after cutting from her Detroit-based band Straight Ahead, and left the STNY also for greener pastures by becoming a pop jazz maven of soul-jazz. An Outside Job reveals the STNY in transition. The hard, flippy-floppy jazz-tinged sound of the '80s was gone by this point, and more of the playfulness of guitarist James Emery entered into the proceedings. In this way, they were perhaps more adventurous than at any time in their career; unfortunately, that adventure doesn't always pay off. On this date that opens with Carter's "Dread Head Dance," the rhythm shifts around so much between the three it's very difficult to hear who is trying to lead the track -- and that's a shame for a track that supposedly is based on a traditional reggae rhythm. Emery's "In Any Event" works better with its gypsy swing harmony melody between he and Carter. Lindberg punches through the air to accent the rhythm properly and the pair play an intricate, steamy riff on Reinhardt-Grappelli with an edgier, more urban melody. Also, the free improvs work well together, especially on the title track where the notion is all one of texture, scraped, bowed, bent, plucked, and stretched strings are behind the piece, and offer the listener a view of microtonalities being manufactured rather than being reacted to by other players. It's awesome. In sum, while An Outside Job is not necessarily a classic STNY album, it is far better than a journeyman concert played to pay the bills. There is still real fire here, but it doesn't match the inventive intensities of earlier efforts.