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BEST JAZZ ARTIST Minneapolis 2004 - George Cartwright

Readers' Choice: Happy Apple

You might say George Cartwright is a ringer. By the time he settled in Roseville a few years back, the 52-year-old saxophonist and composer had already established himself as one of the leading lights of New York's downtown scene, where Curlew, his genre-busting free-improv/ rock/blues/funk fusion unit, occupied the catbird seat at the Knitting Factory and sundry other venues for well over a decade. But even since relocating to the smaller Minnesota suburb, the soft-spoken Mississippi native has been anything but stingy with his talents. The ferociously focused Black Ants Crawling (released last year on St. Paul's Innova Recordings) demonstrates the extent of Cartwright's flair for free jazz, while Gussie (on the Minneapolis-based Roaratorio label) delivers a deliriously joyful live recording of a 2001 Curlew performance at Gus Lucky's, offering many-splendored aural glimpses of Cartwright's unbounded imagination. His synaptic panorama is so expansive, not even all of jazz can accommodate it: A couple of local stages have felt the mingled emanations of Cartwright and Fog's Andrew Broder as of late.

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