Mavis Staples, Regina Carter’s Southern Comfort Jazz | Symphony Center | Blues, Gospel, and R&B | Chicago Reader
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Mavis Staples, Regina Carter’s Southern Comfort Jazz All Ages Recommended Soundboard

When: Fri., April 18, 8 p.m. 2014
Price: $28-$88
Jazz violinist Regina Carter has previously experimented with West African music and early jazz standards, and on the transfixing new Southern Comfort (Sony Masterworks) she focuses on southern American songs of a century or so ago, drawn especially from its white rural traditions (Carter herself is African-American). She and her band—guitarist and Chicago native Marvin Sewell, bassist Chris Lightcap, drummer Alvester Garnett, and accordionist Will Holshouser—generally update these old styles or hybridize them with newer ones, rather than attempting to re-create or preserve them. By rifling through the collections of the Library of Congress and the field recordings of Alan Lomax, Carter assembled a collection of melodies both familiar (“Shoo-Rye,” “See See Rider”) and obscure; she also sprinkles in adaptations of comparatively modern pieces, including the Gram Parsons ballad “Hickory Wind” and the Hank Williams classic “Honky Tonkin’.” She layers samples of an old work song over the melody of the spiritual “Trampin’,” which Garnett further dislocates with an Afrobeat groove; the band jacks up the Cajun fiddle tune “Blues de Basile,” written in 1930 by Dennis McGee, with muscular second-line rhythms. Carter takes the bulk of the solo space, using her fiddle to play the vocal role on those songs that would’ve had singing, and her group is equally open-minded and intuitive when it comes to remaking this material. The lineup from the album—with Lightcap replaced by Jesse Murphy, who plays on a few tracks—will join Carter for this show. —Peter Margasak

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