Stories » Regina Carter digs into her past@Stanford's Dinkelspiel Auditorium / San Jose Mercury News

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Regina Carter digs into her past@Stanford's Dinkelspiel Auditorium / San Jose Mercury News

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Regina Carter is an extraordinary musician. Time magazine said of the jazz violinist, "Wonderfully listenable, probingly intelligent and, at times, breathtakingly daring." But this adventurous artist, who performs with her quartet at Stanford's Dinkelspiel Auditorium on Saturday, also remains a student of music. Her appetite for expanding her musical knowledge is insatiable.

In recent years, Carter has been consumed with a need to explore her musical roots. Her 2006 album, "I'll Be Seeing You: A Sentimental Journey," delved into the early jazz standards her mother loved.

After receiving the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, she felt an urge to find out as much as she could about her ancestry. "I decided that it would be interesting to record some of the music that related to my findings and work that out as a project, because some of the field recordings I was finding were so powerful and beautiful and were not something that we were going to hear on commercial radio stations ... or any radio stations, for that matter."

2010's "Reverse Thread" brought listeners African music through the prism of Carter's imaginative interpretations. Her latest album, "Southern Comfort," examines the folk tunes her grandfather, a coal miner, might have heard during his laboring days in Alabama.

To research the projects, Carter drew upon distant relatives, books and Library of Congress music collections. "I was educating myself to so many musicians and styles of music and culture that I wasn't aware of. I was really excited by the music I was hearing. So it all kind of started with 'Reverse Thread.' "And then with 'Southern Comfort,' it was a bit more personal, because I was researching my immediate family, my grandfather on my father's side, and hooking up my family tree with other relatives' family trees. I was discovering other relatives that I didn't know and reconnecting with some that I hadn't been in touch with in a long time." When Carter performs music from "Southern Comfort," she presents some of the original field recordings for the audience.

"I want them to have an idea of where these arrangements come from, to see their growth and to see what we've done with them, to turn them on to these collections -- the Alan Lomax collection and the John Work III collection. It gets people excited, as well, to want to discover their past, their own families, backgrounds and ancestry, to see how far back they can go. And to hear the music that might have been relevant for them, as well."   READ THE FULL San Jose Mercury News ARTICLE