Somewhat of a departure from the post-bop jazz he is known for, saxophonist James Carter's 2011 release Caribbean Rhapsody features several orchestral collaborations with classical composer Roberto Sierra. Featuring the newly minted title piece, the album also includes the composition "Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra," which originally premiered in Detroit in 2002. Produced by Michael Cuscuna, the album also includes a guest appearance by Carter's cousin Regina Carter on violin as well as cellist Akua Davis, whose string quintet is featured on "Caribbean Rhapsody." As the centerpiece of the album, "Caribbean Rhapsody" is conceptualized around Sierra's life growing up in Puerto Rico and the various styles of music he encountered, from bolero to Latin jazz and salsa. Elsewhere, Carter leads the ensemble through the frenetic, angular, and somewhat noir-ish leadoff track, "Ritmico"; gets several ruminative and lyrical saxophone interludes; and then dives headlong through the cinematic boogie-woogie-inflected piece "Playful -- Fast (With Swing)." A bold, adventurous performer with a titanic facility on the saxophone, Carter is perfectly suited for performing with large ensembles, and the orchestrations here are gorgeously rendered landscapes for Carter to play against. In fact, composer Sierra purposely left certain cadenzas and other areas of the scores on Caribbean Rhapsody open for Carter to improvise, and the results are nothing short of thrilling.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar
|Concerto for Saxophones and Orchestra|