Regina Carter

Ella: Accentuate The Positive
(OKeh)

Violinist Regina Carter is at the top of her art here on this fantastic tribute to Ella Fitzgerald on the occasion of her 100th anniversary. Carter shows she is in full command of her talents from the downbeat of the opening tune, “Accentuate The Positive,” a very original take on an old chestnut. Sung with deep soul and gospel furor by Miche Braden, Carter shares the spotlight on this one with the vocalist/actress as well as guitarist Marvin Sewell. It’s a burst of musicianship at its best inside an incredibly inventive arrangement by Ray Angry. Arrangements, in fact, are at the forefront of this entire recording. Ben Williams arranges a sweet “Crying In The Chapel,” and Sewell’s version of “Judy” is a toe-tapping sigh. Chris Lightcap arranges a soul-infused “I’ll Never Be Free.” Even so, at the heart of this album are tunes so familiar you can see the words floating across the sky as they’re virtually sung with melodic perfection by Carter’s violin. There’s a reason she is a perennial DownBeat Critics and Readers poll winner. Her playing is recognizable within three notes. And here, she’s not afraid to take risks with Fitzgerald’s musical legacy. “Reach For Tomorrow” is a beautifully orchestrated homage. “Undecided” is a funk-fest featuring the vocals of Carla Cook. And “I’ll Chase The Blues Away” is served up as a get-down-to-the-ground, guttural blues. These are certainly Fitzgerald’s signature tunes, but they have been transformed by another great stylist: Regina Carter!