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Regina Carter Quintet - Birdland Debut
- Jazz and Cabaret Corner

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315 West 44th Street, NYC

Regina Carter, Violin: Werner "Vana" Gierig, Piano; Chris Lightcap, Bass; Mayra Casales, Percussion; Alvester Garnett, Drums

Publicity by Michelle Taylor, NIA Entertainment, Ltd.

Gianni Valenti, Owner
Tarik Osman, Manager

By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 23, 2003
Originally Published on

Regina Carter and her dynamic Quintet, that fuses Jazz and Latin rhythms, with an amazing array of talent, heated up a very cold night, recently -- January in New York at Birdland. Regina is a petite violinist, who has a new CD, called Paganini After a Dream, recorded in Genoa, Italy, on the famed Guarneri Violin, owned by Nicolo Paganini, which has a $40 million insurance policy. Regina was greeted by an enormous crowd, on her arrival in Genoa, as she was the first Jazz musician to be allowed to play this rare violin.

Regina's Quintet opened the first set with one of my very favorite Argentine Tango pieces, Oblivion, by Astor Piazzolla. This piece began with a soulful violin, that quickly fused into a percussive Cha Cha beat, with the assistance of Mayra Casales' amazing percussion, on wooden, metal, and natural, Latin instruments. Mayra loves her bongos, and Regina soon fused again into traditional Jazz rhythms, reminiscent of Stephane Grappelli.

The next piece, Prelude, with heavy percussion and Swing rhythms, utilized symbols and light drums. I thought of the late Jazz violinist, Noel Pointer, whom I had often seen at the original Fat Tuesday's (now closed). With a wild, dizzy violin, and a strong, melodic piano, thanks to Vana Gierig's key-splitting style (See upcoming CD Review, A New Day), Regina fused Swing and Jazz. Chris Lightcap was a master on bass, with full improvisational rhythms, and Alvester Garnett picked up the beat substantially with his crazy drums. The Quintet was focused and driven.

Fusing to Salsa and then Samba, Regina's violin turned into a song bird, and Mayra's percussion included jungle calls, natural instruments, chimes, even some sounds of Thailand and Vietnam, interspersed with these Latin rhythms. The Salsa section was totally wild, as Mayra was showcased, and Regina added the percussive sound of her hand, tapping the side of the wooden violin. There was a New Age feel, at this point, reminiscent of Jean Luc Ponty, and, again, Noel Pointer, with whom he had collaborated. Mayra even sang softly to enhance this section and inspired all the musicians to sing softly, together. As the Brazilian Samba rhythms and music was highlighted, I would have loved to see Carlos Porto improvise with his traditional Carnivale choreography.

By coincidence, I had just reviewed, for NYC Ballet Company, Dance for a Dead Prince, and Regina created a very Jazzy interpretation to this haunting piece, although the theme still tore at my heart. She played a bit with the main theme, then paused and mixed the melody with Jazz. For Someone I Love had a Rhumba feel and Latin percussion, steel drums, picking up to a full Cha Cha beat. There was a full blending of Latin and Jazz at this point.

Regina also took the drums, toward the end of the first set, and formed a three-way percussion group, with the bass and piano taking over the lead. The full-scale Cha Cha turned into Afro-Cuban rhythms, with an explosion of Jazz and drums that created fireworks of sound.

The second set was connected to classical music, again, as was the Pavane (Ravel). The Faure piece infused a very soft piano and violin with a beautiful theme. Interpreting Debussy's Reverie, Regina, once again, showed us the nature of her new CD, which is a fusion of Classical and Jazz, to appropriately honor the rare Paganini violin. She added an unexpected Django Reinhardt styled riff to this theme, as she then fused to a Swing rhythm. The second set was even more wild and relaxed, and, in Reverie, during Chris' warm, earthy bass, the violin again picked up the original melody, as if it had never been interrupted.

In Central Havana, Mayra took the lead on Latin percussion. With a full Salsa beat, wild and vibrant, Regina picked up some of Mayra's drums, and she, Mayra, and Alvester again became a three-way percussive section, only, this time, followed by piano and bass. On a freezing and snowy night, Birdland was hot. This Quintet is extremely comfortable with each other, and they improvise at will.

In Spring Can Really Hang You Up, a mellow mood was re-introduced. Then, to close the evening, Wise Little Cat, sung in Portuguese, brought the Club to its fullest energy, with a fusion of Grappelli styled Swing and Carnivale styled Samba. I really look forward to seeing Regina Carter and her Quintet again soon.

Regina Carter and Friend

Vana Gierig and Alvester Garnett

Regina with Guests

Regina Carter

Mayra Casales

Chris Lightcap

Mayra and Chris

Tarik Osman, Manager

Regina in performance in Genoa, Italy using Paganini's 250 year old Guarneri violin. (Photo courtesy of NIA Entertainment)


For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at