February 12, 2003

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James Carter Trio
Yoshi's, Feb. 18-23

IT MUST HAVE been seven or eight years ago when Spin magazine writer Chris Norris called saxophonist James Carter jazz's first rock star; at the time, he seemed on target. Jazz was busting out all over, and Carter – young, good looking, and talented – had it all. He certainly held up his end of the bargain, recording a series of solid albums, including my favorites, Jurassic Classics (Sony) and Chasin' the Gypsy (Atlantic), and never going too long between tours or new projects. The jazz renaissance came and went, but if Carter didn't become a household name, don't blame him. His music doesn't break new ground, but he's comfortable playing all over the musical map. More than that, he's brought a unique, intriguing voice to everything he's played. Berkeley native David Murray is a generation older than Carter, but he too was once heralded as an important part of jazz's future. Like Carter, he covers a lot of ground, but he's as comfortable with the challenges of exploring new areas as he is in more familiar territory. Carter and Murray are joined for this six-night gig by Hammond B3 organist Gerard Gibbs and drummer Leonard King; it's a great lineup, and I wouldn't miss it for the world. You shouldn't either. Tues.-Sat., 8 and 10 p.m.; Sun., 2 and 8 p.m., 510 Embarcadero West, Jack London Square, Oakl. $5-$24. (510) 238-9200. (J.H. Tompkins)