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A Big Salute to Legendary John Carter

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

When composer-clarinetist John Carter died in 1991, at 61, he left behind one of the most ambitious jazz suites written in the last quarter-century, “Roots and Folklore: Episodes in the Development of American Folk Music.” Part of that opus, which spanned five album releases (and two recording labels), will be covered in a January concert performed by a group under the direction of cornetist, composer and longtime Carter associate Bobby Bradford.

The concert, under the auspices of the Inner Ear series, will be at the Knauer/Johnston Studio in Santa Monica on Jan. 15 and will feature selections from Carter’s suite “Castles of Ghana,” according to Bradford, as well as other music from the distinguished clarinetist and composer.

Carter came up in Fort Worth and played there with fellow Fort Worth natives Ornette Coleman and Dewey Redman before arriving in Los Angeles. His first band with Bradford, the New Art Jazz Ensemble, came in 1964 and was followed by numerous projects under different names. A longtime educator in the Los Angeles school system, Carter was an integral part of Bradford’s Pasadena-based Little Big Horn workshop (along with James Newton and saxophonist Arthur Blythe) and was a founding member of the Wind College with Red Callender and Charles Owens.

“As a clarinetist, this guy was terrifying,” marvels Bradford. “And he was also a wonderful saxophone player and flutist, for that matter. And as a composer, well, I hesitate to compare him to anyone else.”

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Guitarist Nels Cline, who is curating the concert for Inner Ear and will perform as part of Bradford’s ensemble, remembers Carter as one of the most dedicated musicians he’s ever known.

“I met John when we were both playing in Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra West,” he says. “Both John and Bobby were incredibly encouraging to me, seemed genuinely interested in what I was trying to do on guitar. John was a technical giant, very serious about his music.”

The “Roots and Folklore” series got off the ground in 1982 when the Italian Black Saint label released “Dauwhe,” an octet recording in five sections based on an African mythology figure. The series continued on the Gramavision label in 1986 with “Castles of Ghana,” its inspiration coming from the slave trade of the 1600s. It continued in 1986 with “Fields,” music depicting slavery in North America, and was followed by 1987’s “Dance of the Love Ghosts” and, in 1989, “Shadows on a Wall.” Bradford and Carter collaborated on a number of projects over the years, most notably “Comin’ On,” a quintet recording with pianist Don Preston, bassist Richard Davis and drummer Andrew Cyrille (heard on many of the Folklore albums), recorded live at Catalina Bar & Grill in 1988 and released on the Swiss Hat Hut label.

In addition to guitarist Cline, Bradford will include bassist Art Davis, multi-reed player Vinny Golia and violinist Tylana Enomoto in his ensemble for the Inner Ear concert. The series, with each show curated by one of six area musicians, continues on the third Saturday of each month. Cline, G.E. Stinson, Vinny Golia, Bill Roper, Kira Vollman and Jeff Gauthier will each curate two shows during the year. (Inner Ear also has established a Web site that lists new music events throughout the community: https://www.inner- ear.com). Information on the concert series: (310) 301-1611.

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Y2K Bust: Was the 12th annual New Year’s Jazz at Indian Wells, a four-day event, canceled earlier this month, a victim of the Y2K entertainment backlash? Partially, according to festival executive director and founder Libby Huebner, who had lined up singer Nancy Wilson, pianist Marcus Roberts and some 20 other bands and performers at two Indian Wells resort hotels.

“We ran into a number of obstacles along the way this year,” says Huebner, who explains that the final blow came when ticket sales, after good initial sales, didn’t begin picking up after Thanksgiving. Another major factor this year, according to Huebner, was the city of Indian Wells pulling its financial support.

Indian Wells Mayor Percy Byrd said the funding was withdrawn based on a City Council vote: “There had not been a big return to the city based on the investment.”

“We thought we could continue [without the money],” Huebner says. “But when the reservations didn’t pick up. . . .”

And the Y2K connection? “We know our patron base very well, and many of them sent us notes this year saying that because of the millennium they intended to be with family or take cruises or just stay at home. All the typical Y2K reasons.”

Nor is the festival looking to resume next year. “At this point, we have no plans to move forward in the future,” says Huebner.

New Room: The first new L.A. jazz club of the 21st century debuts in Los Feliz next weekend. Photographer, vocalist and impresario Jim Britt, whose Culver City studio was the original home of the Jazz Bakery, has joined with restaurant owner Rick Clemente to open the Jazz Spot inside Clemente’s new Los Feliz restaurant at 2138 Hillhurst Ave. in the site of the former Los Feliz Inn and Primavera.

The 70-seat room features a 9-foot Yamaha Concert Grand piano. Oversized prints taken by Britt of Milt Jackson, Dizzy Gillespie, Carmen McRae and others adorn the walls. “This will be mostly an acoustic room,” according to Britt, “and the sound will be excellent. The whole idea is to focus on the artist.”

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The Spot opens next Friday-Jan. 8 with pianist John Wood’s trio (singer Britt joins the trio Saturday) and continues with pianist Gerald Wiggins on Jan. 14-15, singer Julie Kelly on Jan. 21, pianist Jon Mayer’s trio on Jan. 22 and saxophonist Plas Johnson’s quartet on Jan. 28-29. Information: (323) 666-8666.

More Tribute: The UCLA Student Committee for the Arts’ tribute to drummer Billy Higgins, to be at Royce Hall on Jan. 14, has announced a lineup that includes saxophonist Charles Lloyd, pianist Geri Allen, guitarist Kenny Burrell and bassist Roberto Miguel Miranda leading an ensemble of UCLA students. Higgins is also scheduled to appear. The event is a fund-raiser for the Student Committee’s Jazz and World Music Series. Info: (310) 825-2101.


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