Improvising Exertion and Making Listeners Cry for a Naked Horn


Here’s a formula for free jazz: tension followed by resolution, insistence by resignation, improvisation by noise. Oh, that’s a formula for national government. Anyway, defining free jazz isn’t Daniel Carter’s mission on Luminescence—he’s too busy channeling emotion through the bell of his naked, soulful horn.

It’s a quiet journey, but silence is not the main aesthetic. Carter exerts himself, even when he plays gently. His three-minute romance with bassist Reuben Radding at 7:40 of “Refracted Light and Grace” is as beautiful as any since Ellington and Coltrane on “In a Sentimental Mood.” And though his quotations from Coltrane’s “Naima” and Abbey Lincoln’s “The World is Falling Down” sweeten his solos, the album’s not a soundbite sampler; it’s an emotional epic that suggests childhood curiosity turning into adult acceptance. Carter breathes in on “Blessing the Ride,” out on “Ancestral Voyage,” and hardly at all on “Vignettes,” only occasionally getting lost in high registers.

Having recorded with DJ Logic, it’s a shock there’s no electronic knock at Carter’s recording studio door, but don’t focus on his background; focus on his improvisational impulse. He’s subtle, not ambivalent; calm, not complacent.