Versatility and virtuosity have been the hallmarks of saxophonist James Carter, who hit the New York jazz scene with a flourish in the early '90s and subsequently carved a distinctive niche as someone with a traditionalist heart and a marauding genius. Present Tense (Emarcy), released just as he's about to hit 40, finds Carter hip-deep in a sweeping array of traditions—Django, Duke, Billie, balladry, swing, bop, bossa—masterfully etching them with loving respect but also vibrant twists that justify the title. Juggling tenor, soprano, bari, bass clarinet, and flute, Carter ranges from the sly, smoky original "Sussa Nita" to the raging "Hymn of the Orient," a blistering duel between his baritone and Dwight Adams's trumpet. In between are "Dodo's Bounce," painted by Carter's breezy flute, Django's "Pour Que Ma Vie Demeure" as a sprightly but richly nuanced ballad, and the Sonny Rollins-associated "Song of Delilah," its exoticism layered over fiercely funky rhythms. Track after track, Carter essentially adds his own 21st-century definition of tradition. At the Dakota he'll be joined by trumpeter Corey Wilkes, pianist Gerard Gibbs, bassist Ralphe Armstrong, and drummer Leonard King. $35 at 7 p.m.; $25 at 9:30 p.m.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays. Starts: Dec. 9. Continues through Dec. 10, 2008