Paganini's Violin Inspires Regina Carter's 'Dream'

Excerpted from the magazine for

There is a good reason why Regina Carter is pictured inside her latest release holding a violin, flanked by two somber, uniformed guards. The Guarneri violin, dubbed "Il Cannaone" or "The Cannon," dates to the 1700s and was once owned by classical violinist Nicolo Paganini. It now resides as a national treasure in the late virtuoso's home of Genoa, Italy. Carter is the first jazz musician, and the first African-American, to be given permission to play the instrument.

"The mayor and other politicians, along with the Paganini institute and commission, had to be convinced. A lot of people were against the idea; they felt that playing jazz on the instrument would deface it," Carter says. "I had to do interviews detailing what I've done and who I've studied with. I was insulted at first, but I learned they do this with everyone who touches the violin. Their respect for the arts is so strong."

After performing with the violin in Genoa during a post 9/11 benefit concert at Genoa's Teatro Carlo Felice, Carter's journey took another turn when she returned to Italy to record with the famous instrument. The result, "Paganini: After a Dream," due April 22 via Verve, finds Carter interpreting material by such composers as Ravel, Piazzolla, and Debussy, integrating jazz improvisation and classical melodies.

"I was told that the music had to match the violin, and my roots are in classical European music," Carter says. "The compositions were set up so that the main melodies segue into solo sections where I could improvise and then return to the familiar melodies."

Carter is backed on "After a Dream" by her longtime band: pianist Werner "Vana" Gierig, bassist Christ Lightcap, drummer Alvester Garnett, and percussionist Mayra Casales. The group recorded in early November in New York, with Carter recording her sessions with the Cannon later in the month in Genoa. Additional orchestration was added later in New York.

Carter has a handful of U.S. tour dates on her schedule, including an April 11 show at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington, Del., a May 2 performance during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and a five-night stand at the Jazz Bakery in Culver City, Calif. (May 6-11).

Excerpted from the April 12, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Premium Services section.

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