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Episode 22 of the Burning Ambulance podcast features an interview with violinist Regina Carter. She’s one of the best known jazz violinists in the world, as well as a MacArthur fellow and a Grammy nominee. She’s originally from Detroit, and she got her start in an all-female group called Straight Ahead. From there, she moved to New York, joined the String Trio of New York with guitarist James Emery and bassist John Lindberg, and also started making solo records starting in 1995. She’s made 10 albums in all, including one that was a duo with pianist Kenny Barron. She’s worked with a broad range of musicians including Wynton Marsalis, Cassandra Wilson, Oliver Lake, Madeline Peyroux, Steve Turre, Terri Lyne Carrington, and James Carter, who’s also her cousin.
Winning a Macarthur fellowship in 2006 has allowed her to work on some really interesting projects without having to convince a label of their value beforehand. Southern Comfort was an album that explored Appalachian and southern roots music as a way of tracing her own family’s history, and her latest album, Accentuate the Positive, which came out last year, was a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, but it doesn’t feature the songs you’d expect. A lot of the pieces are obscure, and as a consequence she doesn’t really feel the need to perform them in a way that the listener might identify with Ella Fitzgerald.
I met up with Regina Carter at NJPAC’s All-Female Jazz Residency, a week-long program for students from 14-25 in Newark, New Jersey. She was the artistic director, taking over from Geri Allen, who founded the program but who passed away suddenly in June 2017. The residency combines lectures and seminars with rehearsals and master classes, so that the women who are taking part learn from each other as well as from people who are already making careers in jazz. And it goes beyond music, as we talk about in this interview – they also learn about branding yourself and maintaining a social media presence, about what radio expects from an artist and how to make an impression on journalists and DJs, and other things that will allow them to become professionals and avoid pitfalls in their careers.
I had originally planned for this to be a joint interview with Carter, saxophonist Tia Fuller, and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, all of whom participated in the residency, but it wound up just being a conversation with Carter. I think it’s really interesting, though, and she’s got a lot to say not only about her music but about the residency and the state of the jazz business, so I hope you’ll enjoy it.