Carter took those songs and, teaming up with drummer and producer Ulysses Owens, Jr. and pianists/arrangers Laurence Hobgood and Joshua Bowlus, created an album of Jazz reinvention of pop-rock-soul-country classics. It was Owens who assembled the grand array of talent and prove the irony of the album’s title.
“It’s a Man’s World” was recorded in two separate settings by two distinct ensembles (both anchored by Ulysses Owens, Jr.) on two different nights. The results are staggering in their artistry and scope.
The album opens with the James Brown classic “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” Laurence Hobgood—on piano—transforms the Soul standard into a Jazz near-anthem for Carter. Owens’ drumming is worth hearing on its own and Joel Frahm enhances the Jazz effect on saxophone. But, on this album, it is indeed Carter’s world.
Jon Lee Hooker’s “I’m in the Mood” is performed by the second night’s band. David Rosenthal on guitar and Daniel Dickinson on alto sax offer cool-as-can-be solos. Ben Williams’ bass with Owens on drums is one righteous rhythm section. Carter’s languid vocals strip away Hooker’s rawness, leaving a lush and captivating ballad.
The third track is truly a pleasant surprise. It is the first night’s ensemble featuring Hobgood on piano and arranging the piece into something truly extraordinary. It is the Police’s original, “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.”
Gone is Stewart Copeland’s “white reggae” drumming, beautifully replaced by Owens’ straight-ahead Jazz. The temp has dropped from vivace to andante and Carter’s vocals are warm and sultry. Sweet.
Carter’s take on the Bruce Springsteen “I’m on Fire” is more lusty than lascivious. Hobgood’s arrangement is fascinating. His piano artistry is as warm as Carter’s vocals while Owens’ drumming is soft and steady, all creating a track of real emotion and desire.
As the song fades, Hobgood takes off on a little two-part invention that sits so sweetly in the song’s conclusion.
One of the most beautiful arrangements is Hobgood’s take on Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘bout a Thing.” What swing. What gorgeous changes. Carter gives exquisite deliver while Hobgood makes bold play with the Master’s original. It is a stunning rendition.
“Take Me to the Pilot”—first done by Elton John—is a soulful arrangement by Bowlus, again. This keeps mostly to the original time but Ben Williams gives a funky bass along with Rosenthal’s lead guitar.
“Hurt” was written by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and covered by Johnny Cash. In Carter’s version, the brokenness is replaced by a delicate fragility, creating a moving work of sadness instead of bitterness. Williams’ bowed bass adds even more depth to the anguish.
Amazing that, though the lyrics remain mostly the same, the changes and intonations make this song more transformation than despair. This is triumph over pain instead of self-surrender to it.
James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” becomes very nearly a bossa nova piece under Bowlus’ arrangement and Carter knows how to deliver on it.
Ulysses Owens, Jr. is—and should be—one of the stars of this album. His production value and his remarkable talents as a drummer show why he is in such high demand. He is one of the greats.
“Can I Stay” was a Ray LaMontagne original. In the Carter rendition, David Rosenthal accompanies her on solo acoustic guitar. Carter’s vocalizations are wonderfully sweet. Very gentle in her delivery.
This is what makes Carter Calvert such a great artist; she has the talent and skill to move effortlessly from the delicate to the determined, from poetry to power, while keeping the listener in her spell.
In “Hallelujah, I Love (Him) So,” was the 1956 debut single from Ray Charles. It is a bluesy Gospel swinger. With Alphonso Horne on trumpet, Eric Miller on trombone and Daniel Dickinson on alto sax, the horn section gives a punchy interaction with the piano and guitar. Carter is as rich and dynamic as anywhere on the album. One can almost imagine Ray smiling broadly at her cover of the song.
“Can You Be True?” is the Elvis Costello album “North.” Laurence Hobgood is the solo piano accompaniment for Carter on this brilliant arrangement. And what an arrangement! Being a fan of Costello, I was incredibly pleased with this lovely version. Each step, each track proves Carter’s authority within the “Man’s World.”
But then came the frontal assault on the bad boys. “Love, Reign O’er Me” was The Who’s powerful song from the epic album, “Quadrophenia.” This was the track I had awaited from the moment I read the track-listing.
The chord changes remain close to the original but the tempo and, most certainly, the delivery are all Carter’s. The rock quality is totally replaced by a jazzy Caribbean feel. This was better than I had hoped! The artists are on fire—each and every one of them. The walk-off is magnificent.
More than a frontal assault, this was victory through allurement.
The album concludes with “Let It Be”—yes, THAT “Let It Be.” Of all the tracks, this one remains closest to the original.
In the second verse, Damon Mack takes on the Billy Preston organ part with the Hammond B-3. Fortunately, Hobgood is a much finer pianist than Paul McCartney and he, with Joel Frahm on alto sax, put this firmly on a Jazz footing. Carter is truly willing to assimilate everything if she is willing to reinvent The Beatles. And she does it beautifully.
Carter Calvert’s brilliant Jazz delivery and complete ownership of the songs she sings on “It’s a Man’s World” delightfully belies the album’s title. Not only does she own the music, she transform it in something completely different. Without violence to the originals, Carter retells the stories and speaks anew the meaningfulness of the music.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl
Visit Carter Calvert’s website at: www.cartercalvert.com/
“Like” her Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/Carter-Calvert-102474693200019
For more great artists to follow, check out Kari-On Productions, LLC at: https://www.facebook.com/karionproductions
To purchase “It’s a Man’s World” on MP3, click on the Amazon link below: