For Sony Masterworks artist Regina Carter, the violin isn't simply an improvisational vehicle, it's a passport to unexpected realms, it's a Rosetta Stone that unlocks the doors to a myriad of cultures, sounds, and worlds apart. Her quest for beauty combined with her passion for excellence did not escape the attention of the MacArthur Foundation, who awarded Regina their prestigious MacArthur fellowship “genius grant”. SF JAZZ also took note of Regina's exceptional work and has made her a Resident Artistic Director of the organization.
In 1987, she joined the all-female pop-jazz quintet Straight Ahead and appeared on their first three albums before leaving the band in 1991 and moving to New York. Regina quickly picked up session work with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige, Lauryn Hill, Billy Joel, Dolly Parton, Max Roach, and Oliver Lake. She graduated from session work to release her self-titled solo debut on Atlantic in 1995 and then followed that up in 1997 with her sophomore release, Something for Grace, an album dedicated to her mother. That same year, Carter toured with Wynton Marsalis. She then switched to the Verve label, where she released Rhythms of the Heart in 1999 and Motor City Moments, a tribute to her hometown, in 2000.
In December of the next year, Regina traveled to Genoa, Italy and made history by being the first jazz musician, as well as the first African American to play the legendary Guarneri Del Gusu violin. The violin, a marvel of master craftsmanship brought to life in 1743, was owned by famous classical music virtuoso and composer Niccolo Paganini. This once in a lifetime experience inspired her next effort, Paganini: After a Dream in 2003. The album featured works by Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, and Italian film composer Ennio Morricone. 2006 marked a big year for Regina as she released I'll Be Seeing You: A Sentimental Journey, as a heartfelt tribute to her late mother.
Reverse Thread, released in May 2010, was a celebration of traditional African music via a contemporary perspective. Additionally, Regina took her pioneering spirit on the road in the late summer and fall of 2012 for a two-month world tour with rock icon Joe Jackson and his stellar ensemble, in support of his release The Duke, a collection of interpretations from the Duke Ellington catalog.
Regina continued her dynamic musical journey with her 2014 release Southern Comfort, in which she investigated her family history, exploring the traditional folk songs her paternal grandfather would have heard as he toiled away in the coal mines of Alabama. The expanded project includes a blend of folk tunes and spirituals, serving as Regina's interpretation of her roots through a modern lens.
2016 marks the 100th birthday of a musical legend, Ella Fitzgerald. Ella is THE source of Regina's musical inspiration and her forthcoming album and touring program will celebrate the music and spirit of this incomparable musical juggernaut through her own personal lens. Regina explains her deep and visceral connection to Ella's music, an influence she has cherished throughout her life.
“Growing up in Detroit, there was always music playing in our home. While there was a variety of music I enjoyed, there were a few artists I found consistently captivating—Ella Fitzgerald was one of these exceptions. To this very day, whenever I hear an Ella recording it grabs me at my core. I'm entranced by her voice, her melodic improvisations and the passion and artfulness with which Ella sings a song. In a word, Ella is sublime, and she is at the top of my go-to list when learning a jazz tune. I'm so excited to celebrate Ella Fitzgerald, an artist who has meant so much to all the notes in my musical life.”