Short Cuts

Carter has previously taken flak for his refusal (or inability) to stick to one tone throughout an album, but this disc offers a fairly balanced mix of familiar jazz styles and offbeat salvos. It opens with "Liammo," written by the multi-instrumentalist Cassius Richmond, who gave Carter his first recording gig. It's a topnotch track, warm and a little luxurious, with Carter's tenor, Richmond's alto, and Dwight Adams' trumpet sauntering in step, but each down its own melodic path. The song is a far cry from the Dixieland stylings of "Don's Idea," an old Don Byas tune, and it's even further removed from Carter's "Skull Grabbin'," which juxtaposes Carter's skronky sax against Craig Taborn's self-composed Hammond organ. Bringing Taborn aboard was a smart idea. His organ is what threads these disparate tracks together, whether he's leading the group, trading solos, or just putting a little icing on the cake. While Carter aims his imagination at various targets, Taborn steadies him as he shoots.

The traditionals here, "Down to the River" and "Trouble in the World," are nicely done but not terribly interesting; they're like wheels that are just too old to reinvent. The title track, which closes the album, is also a slight letdown, veering briefly into generic fusion with Kevin Carter's so-so electric guitar. But they're easily forgotten among finger-snapping tunes such as the buoyant "Escape From Bizarro World" and the whimsically avant-garde "Frisco Follies," a Carter original that's full of surprises. Overall, this is not an album to be overlooked. At this rate Carter will be a household name yet.

-- Rafer Guzman

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