I returned to Cafe Stritch last night to hear JC plus rhythm section. The 90-minute first set was probably the single best set of sax playing I have ever heard. Monstrous! The quartet setting allowed him to stretch out on the solos, and also permitted him the "luxury" of taking the tempo and volume down a notch for some ballad playing... a specialty that we don't always hear enough of (take a listen to The Real Quietstorm). This reminds me of another astounding aspect of Mr. Carter's playing that I forgot to note in my earlier review: circular breathing. He employs it not only to impress the audience with impossibly controlled held notes and long runs, but as a tactic for maintaining long phrases throughout a solo. Incredible technique in the service of expression.
Carter is as charming a front man as he is a beastly musician. He is an obsessive historian of jazz, so the set included a perfect mix of the relatively obscure and the utterly familiar, such as "Caravan," which he ripped through on soprano. He's a hot-dogger, to be sure, but also a generous player who elevates everyone around him. This was evident in the more free-form second set, when he brought some local musicians on stage for a jam session. He clearly loves what he's doing, and he wants you to love it too. I do! Come back anytime, JC!