Virtuoso Violinist Regina Carter comes to Providence

Virtuoso Violinist Regina Carter comes to Providence


Violinist Regina Carter is coming to perform in Providence. | Rahav Segev /

PROVIDENCE — For famed jazz violinist Regina Carter, the passion is in the music.

The 48-year-old jazz performer and her band, The Regina Carter Quintet, will look to share their love of sound and inspire others on Saturday when they take the stage at the RISD Auditorium in Providence.

Carter has played violin since she began Suzuki lessons at the age of four in her hometown of Detroit and her classical training led her to the New England Conservatory in Boston after high school, but she couldn’t shake off the idea of playing jazz violin, so she went back to Michigan to attend the jazz program at Oakland University in Rochester.

Carter moved to New York in the early 1990s and, after her first CD in ‘95, her solo career was on its way.

She’s played with musicians as diverse as Wynton Marsalis and Aretha Franklin, Tanya Tucker and Mary J. Blige. She has recorded eight more albums and received a “genius grant” from the MacArthur Fellows Program in 2006 for being a “master of improvisational jazz violin.”

Carter’s albums have focused around themes such as 2003’s Paganini: After a Dream, when she played Paganini’s precious Guanerius violin in a post-9/11 concert.

She dedicated an album to songs from her native Detroit (Motor City Moments, ‘01); to the jazz standards of her mother’s era (I’ll Be Seeing You: A Sentimental Journey, ‘06); to the threads of her African heritage (Reverse Thread, ‘10); and, most recently, to the folk songs her coal miner grandfather might have heard in Alabama (Southern Comfort, ‘14.)

In a a recent interview, Carter shed light on her musical influences and passion for spreading a love of the arts.

Q: How do you think exposure to the arts affects young people’s lives?

A: They may not be that great in academics, but music and art have a way to help them work through other issues and other subjects. It shows children other ways to think about things.

Q: And what about (adults) and the arts?

A: I think it’s important for adults as well. If someone has not been exposed, they might discover they have a talent that they didn’t realize. It could be just a hobby and a way to meet other people. It may also change your views on other people. You’re seeing things through another set of eyes.

Q: What helps spark creativity in those young or old?

A: It’s different for everyone. You might attend a dance concert or go to a concert, and even if you hate it, it awakens something in you.

Q: What’s important about bringing new work or new performers to audiences?

A: You expose people to something they haven’t sought out — at least not on their own. They won’t go check it out. The artist really wants people to love it, but what’s important is that it makes the audience think about something or feel something that they didn’t before. Sometimes we climb onto something that we never had a chance to experience, such as for those who don’t have a chance to travel.

Q: What keeps inspiring you? Are there certain musicians that you find yourself listening to that get you going?

A: It could be something a friend is listening to, and I’ll ask, “What’s that?” It ranges from years ago to Katy Perry. It’s really cool to share that. Recently listening to a bunch of vinyl records, I realized I hadn’t heard that music since the early ‘90s. It made me think of when I was younger and we’d get together and just listen together. When I’m with someone and they get excited about some music, and we talk about it, it’s special to me. For example, my husband’s a big fan of Björk and Dancer in the Dark, but until I heard her music in the context of the movie, I hadn’t been moved by it. That gave me a whole new appreciation for her music.

Q: What spurred you on to the research for Southern Comfort?

A: I hadn’t heard a lot of this music, such as the Lomax field recordings. I had some pre-conceived ideas about some of it. But when it’s personal, or it has something to do with your life, you hear it differently. When I learned that the Cajun/Creole violinist/accordionist Amédé Ardoin had been willing to go into places that were so horrible it got him killed, that always makes me stop and think. Or Rhiannon Giddens from the Carolina Chocolate Drops using black-face minstrel history in their music. Sometimes we want to bury that, but some amazing music has come out of it.

The Regina Carter Quintet, sponsored by FirstWorks, will take the stage at 8 p.m. in the RISD Auditorium. A free pre-concert conversation will take place in the Chace Center at RISD, at 6:30 p.m.

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