He’s been a Big Apple sensation for more than a decade, but his hometown still figures into saxophonist James Carter’s major successes. Last year, he crossed the jazz-classical divide with panache, performing with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in “Concerto for Saxophones,” commissioned for the occasion from composer Roberto Sierra. He reprises the concerto with the DSO on Oct. 16-18 as part of the gala inaugural month for the new Max M. Fisher Music Center. And in early 2004, Warner Bros. releases the first of two volumes of all-star Carter sessions cut at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge in Detroit. In November, Columbia releases Carter’s Gardenias For Lady Day. An homage to Billie Holiday, it’s his label debut, his first release in three years and his first recording with strings; typical of Carter projects, fellow Detroiters are prominently featured.
When he’s back in town, which is often, Carter is likely to jam with the cats at Baker’s and Bert’s Marketplace, which he considers two of the best things about Detroit, along with the new SerenGeti Ballroom. Why does a star jam? “Public practice never stops,” says Carter. “There’s always something new to learn and somebody new to meet musically.”
A jazzy dresser, he has plaudits for the Broadway in downtown Detroit, Fashion International in Southfield and Rags, a former Fairlane shop he tells us is relocating downtown. For dining, he gives a big thumbs-up to the Rattlesnake Club in Detroit, Joe’s Crab Shack in Sterling Heights, and BD’s Mongolian Barbecue in Royal Oak.