This concentrated six-question, six-minute interview took place just a few minutes before Regina Carter’s performance at the Church of the Gesù venue at the Montreal Jazz Festival.
She has already explained in detail the background to the Southern Comfort album (Sony Masterworks)- in an EPK for the album – which Jon Turney reviewed for us HERE. There is also a good audio interview with NPR.
This interview began by asking her about how she had from the field recordings of songs from Alabama, where her paternal grandfather was a coal-miner, to the tunes on the album:
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Sebastian Scotney: What was the process,what led you to use as many as ten different arrangers (including yourself) on the album “Southern Comfort”?
Regina Carter: When I was originally listening to the field recordings that I wanted to play, certain certain people came to mind, I thought they would be the right person to arrange the specific tunes, so I sent each one three or four tunes and ask them if they felt any connection with the tune. If not, then I would send them another batch of tunes. Because it was important for me for them to have a connection to the tune as well, and not just force something on them. Each arranger knows me personally and musically and knows the band .That was important because the arrangement needed to be custom-written for this group specifically, and not a one-size-fits-all kind of arrangement.
SS: What was the connection with Laurence Hobgood, who arranged “Shoo-Rye”?
RC: I had played a gig with Kurt Elling. I had played one of Laurence’s arrangements I really loved it. It worked well for the violin. When I listened to his arrangements, they reminded me of movies, I could see scenes. I said when I do a project in the future I want to have Laurence write a tune. When I spoke to him about this specific record, it was interesting because his mother was also from the Appalachia area. She had book of tunes that she had collected specifically from that area for him. I felt that we both had a specific connection, with relatives from that area. He understood the music ; he understood my playing, so it was the perfect fit.
SS: Were there other arrangers with as neat a connection as that?
RC: Yes, Marvin Sewell, the guitarist who is playing with me tonight, I played with him with Cassandra Wilson many years ago. When I called him and asked him to be part of this project, and told him what it was all about, he said ” My people are also from Alabama. We started comparing stories about trying to get information from families, all the things that go on. Everyone has some sort of connection, they were meant to be on this project.
SS: I was particularly struck when I heard you on Helen Sung’s record what a strong foreground presence you have with your sound. Do you think about foreground versus background playing?
RC: Especially in my own group, I know that I serve both purposes. We all do. I’m a support instrument as well and it’s not just about me and me playing. It’s about the whole group., and the whole group sound, we all play as specific part. Whether there’s someone soloing and we’re all supporting that person, or whether it’s a group thing. I feel that we are all always aware and paying attention, and that it’s important
SS: As non Americans we see similarities with a project like tihis and what Bill Frisell does . Is that something which resonates with you?
RC: It hasn’t crossed my mind, no. I know there are some similarities, that he and Jenny Scheinman – whom I have a lot of respect for – they work together a lot.
Sebastian Scotney: Where will you go after this record?
Regina Carter: Who knows. I always go somewhere different. I just have a lot of curiosity about many things. If I keep tracing my family routes the next project will be Finnish (laughs) [she explained later that this has emerged from a recent DNA profile]. If I don’t, maybe I’ll do another standards record. I have no clue what I’m going to do next.