James Carter is an enormously talented saxophonist in addition to being a helluva entertainer, and he has rarely performed on a bandstand or in a session when he hasn’t felt compelled to demonstrate these qualities – in colourful detail.
And while he’s fronted bands and facilitated numerous recording projects over the years, on Present Tense he comes across as a mature bandleader like never before. He still solos his ass off on a variety of instruments – something I love about him even if some are put off by it – but it’s evident that he no longer feels the need to prove himself on each number.
Maybe that’s because on Present Tense he’s surrounded by similarly virtuosic, uncompromising and hungry band members, notably pianist D.D. Jackson and trumpeter Dwight Adams, who are no less eager to jump in and kick ass yet mature enough to choose the right spots.
It’s a deep, enriching listen and fit for repeat spins. As close to a contemporary jazz classic as you’re likely to come across.