Well Strung: Carter's Musical Present Tied Up With a Bow

Paganini. You know, the famous violinist, classical celebrity, and waltz-stomping workhorse, whose instrument rests in a bank vault under strict security in northern Italy. His name suggests majesty, and, right now, so does Regina Carter's; she recently became that violin's first black jazz player—a milestone. Her crowning achievement is not just her recording, but her creativity on that album, so celebrated as a historical document that her performance plays second fiddle to the whirlwind surrounding it. Both are stunning, and both deserve celebration at Carnegie Hall on November 3, when, if authorities can transport the musical heirloom safely on time, she'll perform on it live. Wouldn't miss it, would you?

If Carter's quick wit and guiding intelligence abide, she'll play tremendously. But doesn't jazz happen best when musicians discard all that and honk like mad? Sometimes. In Carter's case, exacting precision and studied syncopation are her gifts, and no urge to scratch, scream, holler, or shriek can disrupt her concentration—even though, when challenged, she can burst into blues so biting that you'll need a fan to cool her down. Here's hoping for the latter—whatever it takes to rev her engine. At least she'll treat us to that giggle sound she makes using oscillating bow motions and, just maybe, she'll find her own reflection in the pools of that polished instrument.

Regina Carter performs November 3 at Carnegie Hall, Zankel Hall, 881 Seventh Avenue, 212-247-7800.

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