The Set List — Roberta Flack

By Ed Reynolds and Bart Grooms

Roberta Flack has made a career singing boring pop that has about as much passion as Liza Minelli or Phoebe Snow. So it’s hard to fathom that a breathtaking song on Flack’s debut album First Take that Clint Eastwood demanded be included on the soundtrack of his film Play Misty for Me rates as a true 24-karat masterpiece. “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” is nothing short of spellbinding, an awe-inspiring, hypnotic slice of musical history that rarely fails to make one stop whatever they’re doing and simply listen. To her credit, Flack told music big shots and producers overseeing her career to take a hike when told to speed up the tempo. Instead, her voice approaches each phrase with a delicate caress. Too bad she couldn’t pull off that neat trick again with “Killing Me Softly,” “Where is the Love [with the late Donny Hathaway],” “The Closer I Get to You,” and, of course, the thoroughly irritating “Tonight I Celebrate My Love for You.” (Saturday, January 22, at the BJCC Concert Hall) —Ed Reynolds

Roberta Flack (click for larger version)

Regina Carter


Regina Carter (click for larger version)

Although she later received classical training, violinist Regina Carter began the way many of her jazz forbearers did—playing by ear. She later mastered written music and theory, but as she puts it, “I think that kind of experience has freed my playing up a lot more, so I’m not stuck on the page. A lot of people are afraid not to have a piece of music in front of them.” She sees her mission as expanding the profile of and approach to her instrument, and to this end she plays in an aggressive, often percussive manner that recalls the great Stuff Smith’s bluesy swagger more than, say, Stéphane Grappelli’s more refined style. “Instead of being so melodic,” states the fiddler, “which I can be, I tend to use the instrument in more of a rhythmic way, using vamp rhythms or a lot of syncopated rhythms, approaching it more like a horn player does. So, I don’t feel that I have a lot of limitations —I feel like I can do anything.” Indeed, what she can do is pretty striking, and her quintet’s ASC concert on Saturday, January 22, at 8 p.m. will give us an opportunity to hear for ourselves. Until then, her beguiling duet album with master pianist Kenny Barron (Freefall, on Verve) is highly recommended. Tickets are $46, $36, and $26; For more information call 975-2787 or visit —Bart Grooms

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