The following is a guest-post from arts and cultural enthusiast Carmen Ramsey Ellington. Carmen, an avid supporter of the August Wilson Center, attended the Regina Carter concert in December. Internationally acclaimed jazz violinist Regina Carter and her quartet performed pieces from her Paganini project along with music from Mali, Senegal and Uganda. Carter brought sold-out audiences to their feet with a musical style Time magazine called “probingly intelligent” and “breathtakingly daring.” This concert was presented in partnership with MCG Jazz. Carmen wanted to share her experience at the August Wilson Center with you.
That single word has reverberated in my mind since my mother and I had the pleasure of seeing Regina Carter and her band in concert at the August Wilson Center on December 12th. Neither of us had ever seen Carter perform and in fact knew almost nothing about her or her music. We were attending the concert primarily to support the Center. Carter’s talent drew the two neophytes in, and quickly.
She opened her show with a lush, romantic piece by Habib Koite, who, coincidentally, will be performing at the August Wilson Center in mid-March 2010. My first thought was that the song belonged on the soundtrack of a sweeping romantic epic, set somewhere like Mozambique or Cote D’Ivoire. My second thought was that she should come back to the Center in March and perform the song with Koite. She had my undivided attention from the very first note to the very last.
I felt as though I was being treated to an auditory travelogue. The music took me to places I’ve never seen: Uganda, Mali, Madagascar. The melodies were at turns serious and cheeky. The band’s 20-minute tribute to post-Katrina New Orleans was so rollicking, I had to remember that I wasn’t in the midst of Mardi Gras and had to remain in my seat. The band also played a song in tribute to the arts and supporters of the arts. It was a wonderful piece that made me think of all the reasons why arts education is so important. Music truly is a universal language, one that should be cultivated and taught at an early age.
Carter was, of course, the evening’s focal point, but her band was amazing as well. I loved how well they meshed, and how Carter gave each plenty of room to shine. Each one of the gentlemen in her band brought something unique to the evening, but surprisingly, the one who sticks out in my mind the most is Will Holshouser, the accordion player. I never imagined that accordion music could be romantic and a bit sexy. And Yacouba Sissoko, the kora (West African harp) player, was simply captivating.
Capitvating. Sexy. Romantic. Breathtaking. Regina Carter and her band were all that and then some.
–Carmen Ramsey Ellington