Bill Carter &
the Presbybop Quartet,
Dancing Day
(self-produced, 2000)

Can any of you jazz fans out there imagine what it would be like if Dave Brubeck was living a double life, one as a Presbyterian minister and the other as a piano-playing leader of a jazz quartet? The Rev. Bill Carter and his jazz band, named after both of his vocations, answer that musical question. Not only does the Presbybop Quartet sound like Brubeck's classic 1950s group, the famous jazz pianist is a fan of this current aggregation.

The band features Al Hamme on sax, clarinet and flute, Tony Marino on acoustic bass and Tom Whaley on drums. This is not a group of amateurs playing for their own amusement. These groovy cats are serious jazz musicians. Hamme has played with jazz all-stars Clark Terry and Slam Stewart. Marino has played bass for Betty Buckley, famous on Broadway for her starring role in Cats, and Whaley has a national reputation playing with the likes of Mose Allison. Leader Carter, who composed most of the music on this CD, says his first love is swinging with this band. In addition to saving souls the Lord has blessed Carter with the ability to play melodic and rhythmic jazz piano on a par with the best keyboard men of the genre.

While the Brubeck influence is obvious, Carter's original pieces contain enough of his own creativity and imagination to make the music sound fresh. The band really shines on the upbeat numbers. "Dancing Day," "Pass the Plate" and "I Lost My Keys at Kennedy Airport," in which Hamme plays superb jazz flute, all swing and show off the quartet's considerable talents. The stars of the show are Carter and reed player Hamme. Both play enjoyable solos everywhere on the disc but neither musician's solos are so long they become tedious. At the same time we cannot overlook the contributions of the rhythm section which supplies a great backdrop without overpowering the music being played up front.

The only negative is guest vocalist Jacque Tara Washington, who sings in an unmelodic dull monotone on three tracks. Her vocals add nothing to this otherwise fine disc. While God may have given Carter's band the ability to play on a heavenly scale, Washington's vocals deserve no afterlife.

Many of the titles, and all three vocal tracks, have religious overtones and Carter explains the inspiration behind each one in the interesting liner notes that accompany the disc.

The Presbyboppers should be taken seriously. If Dave Brubeck can throw his support behind this group so should we.

[ by Charlie Ricci ]
Rambles: 22 September 2001

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