James Carter Organ Trio – At the Crossroads EmArcy B0016081-02 (2011)
At the Crossroads has some of the benefits and all the drawbacks of any typical James Carter album. He plays to the audience, recontextualizing bits of the past with a lot of charisma. Maybe he doesn’t reach to do this as much as he has elsewhere, but he still does it. But he also plays in front of a band that seems a little too conservative for his solos. When I’m feeling unkind, I would even say he pulls a Sidney Bechet and purposefully has the band sandbag by playing dull tropes to make him sound more impressive by comparison. Anyway, there is a bit too much lazy blues and lounge-y stuff here, and the occasional vocals seem to lack any sort of edge, but occasionally it hits, like on “The Hard Blues” and “Aged Pain.” If all this sounds like a pretty tepid endorsement, then it suits this lukewarm effort.