Joe Carter started playing guitar at age 9, encouraged by several family members who were professional musicians. Like so many guitarists of his generation, he fell under the spell of guitarist Jim Hall and his focus became Jazz. While earning his undergraduate degree in Jazz Performance in the 1970s, he studied with and was mentored by, guitarist Sal Salvador. During the early 1980s, while earning his M.A. degree and beginning his Ph.D in Jazz Performance, he studied with guitarists John Scofield and Allan Hanlon, saxophonist Lee Konitz and pianist Don Friedman. From there he went on to record several Lps with Art Farmer (trumpet), Lee Konitz (alto sax), Rufus Reid (bass), Harvie Swartz (bass) and Akira Tana (drums). During the mid 1980s, he recorded with and co-led a quintet with baritone sax legend Cecil Payne. This group enjoyed a somewhat regular stay at New York’s Birdland, in addition to performing at The Angry Squire, Barry Harris’ Jazz Cultural Theater, Visiones, J’s, Café Gianluca and other New York Jazz clubs at the time. Some of the musicians who were part of this group for these performances were Bill Hardman (trumpet), Junior Cook (tenor sax), Lisle Atkinson (bass), Walter Bishop Jr. (piano), Al Harewood (drums) and others.
It was during this period that Joe started teaching privately in New York and wrote four textbooks for guitar --- Tonal Colors For Guitar (Warner-Chappell), as well as, Advancing Guitar, Lead Guitar and Rhythm Guitar (Mt. Holly Press).
In the late 1980s through the 1990s, Joe was invited to perform and teach in Brazil. He led his own trio with Rio natives Paulo Russo (bass) and Claudio Caribe (drums). He also performed with Brazilian artists Mauricio Einhorn (harmonica), Luiz Eca (piano), Robertinho Silva (drums), Luis Alves (bass), Joao Cortez (drums), Jehovah da Gaita (harmonica) and others. It was during this time that Joe Carter’s musical specialty would undergo a change: he gave up his steel stringed Gibson electric guitar and switched over to performing Brazilian Jazz on the nylon stringed classical guitar. This style combines Straight-ahead Hard Bop Jazz with various styles of Brazilian music --- Samba, Bossa Nova, Baiao and Choro --- a sort of combination of North and South America. Think: “Jobim meets Coltrane”.
During the mid 1990s Joe Carter and Brazilian harmonica player, Mauricio Einhorn, formed a duo. This group would go on to perform U.S. and European tours, culminating in a performance at the International Harmonica Hohner Festival in Trossingen, Germany and being included in a documentary film on the history of the harmonica.
Currently Joe Carter is on the faculties at Hartford Conservatory in Hartford, CT and Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT, where he teaches private guitar lessons, directs the Jazz and Guitar Ensembles and teaches the History of Jazz and the Music In Latin America courses. At Sacred Heart University, he is the Director of the Academic Music program. He has conducted teaching workshops in the U.S., France and Brazil. Joe continues to perform in nightclub and concert settings in the U.S., Europe and South America in a variety of formats, from solo to quintet.
His three most recent CDs showcase his Brazilian Jazz playing. Um Abraco No Rio (An Embrace of Rio) was recorded in Rio de Janeiro with Brazilian musicians Mauricio Einhorn (harmonica), Luis Alves (bass) and Joao Cortez (drums). The Samba Rio Trio recording is Joe’s U.S. version of his group. Utilizing the talents of two of the better known Brazilian artists residing in New York: bassist Nilson Matta and drummer Portinho. The Two For Two CD is a series of duets between Joe and bassist Nilson Matta. The songs consist of Brazilian standard songs from the 1930s to the present day. Minor 7th magazine says:
“Carter does justice to the music in a stark duet, yet brings the full flavor of samba and balao through nuanced phrasing and sensitive interplay with Matta, who shines in establishing groove, and taking the listener on his own journeys.”
In addition to these recordings, his other CD releases illustrate his straight-ahead Jazz playing. Duets features Joe in the guitar & bass duo setting with Rufus Reid and Harvie Swartz. Scott Yanow has said:
“The interplay between the two players is tasteful and often intuitive, resulting in quiet but, in its own way, passionate set of music.”
Joe Carter with Art Farmer & Lee Konitz pairs Joe with Art Farmer and Lee Konitz, along with Harvie Swartz and Akira Tana. From the All Music Guide:
“… serves as a fine example of subtle improvisation, based in but not held captive by the bop tradition.”
In addition to being featured in several U.S. magazines, such as JazzTimes, Jazziz and Just Jazz Guitar, articles and interviews with Joe have appeared in Jazz Hot (France), Jazz Journal (England) and Jazz Podium (Germany). Joe has also been featured in two books: Jazz Guitar On Record by Richard Hetrick and Adrian Ingram’s The Gibson ES-175, Its History And Players.
Some of Joe Carter’s International performances have included:
- People Jazz Bar, Rio de Janeiro, BRAZIL
- Rio Jazz Club, Rio de Janeiro, BRAZIL
- Ritmo Nightclub, Rio de Janeiro, BRAZIL
- Mafua Do Malungo, Recife, BRAZIL
- Gula Gula Bar, Rio de Janeiro, BRAZIL
- Horse’s Head Saloon, Rio de Janeiro, BRAZIL
- Jazz Yatra International Jazz Festival, Bombay, Bangalore, Goa, INDIA
- Le Village Nightclub, Paris, FRANCE
- International World Music Festival, Trossingen, GERMANY
- JAZZTIMES Convention, New York City
- The 1995 & 2000 Classic American Guitar Shows
- The 2000, 2002, 2003 International Festival of Arts & Ideas, New Haven, CT
- The 2004 Jazz A Bastia Festival, Corsica, FRANCE
Here’s some of what the critics around the globe have said:
“When you listen to this type of musician the instrument they play seems almost easy because you never feel any strain in their playing. Joe Carter uses a fantastic contrapuntal style, made up of a well balanced combination of single string and chordal renditions.” - Maurice Cullaz, President, ACADEMIE DU JAZZ, France
“Joe Carter is a musician with feeling and polish, endowed with a natural predisposition for dialogue; a personality with refined strength and a sense of communication dressed in lyric elegance but always angelic.” - Mario Luzzi, MUSICA JAZZ, Italy
“One can feel that Joe Carter plays only to create beauty.” - Francois Postiff, France
“Carter’s playing is designed to extract maximum tone color and harmonic possibilities from any given piece.” - Kenny Mathieson, THE WIRE, England
“Listen carefully! If this kind of music ever disappears we are in trouble. Subtlety, especially on the guitar, is not especially in demand these days, but substance of the Carter variety is worth a lot more than all the others’ decibels.” - Owen Cordle, JAZZTIMES Magazine, U.S.A.
“His show is a gift to those who, tired of noise, want to listen to music played in a sensitive and intelligent way.” - Chico Nelson, JORNAL DO BRASIL, Brazil
“Subtle, elegant, dynamic, lyrical, WONDERFUL!” - THE AFTERNOON DESPATCH & COURIER, India
“His style is a model of good taste, sobriety, elegance and melodic beauty.” - Jose Domingos Raffaelli, O GLOBO, Brazil
“He never plays an unnecessary note. His improvisations are beautifully shaped, while his comping is the epitome of taste.” - Adrian Ingram, JUST JAZZ GUITAR, U.S.A.
“Carter moves with certainty and his solos are all intense and melodic.” - Guiseppe Ballaris, GUITAR CLUB Magazine, Italy
“Modern guitar repertoire displaying remarkable technique and imagination with a highly personal manner of swinging.” - Louis Victor Mialy, JAZZ HOT Magazine, France
“A sensitive Bebop player with a lyrical turn of phrase not unlike a slightly more modal version of Jim Hall.” - Chris Burden, STRING JAZZ, England
“Carter is a perfectionist to whom music is a supreme art form, an essentially lyrical guitarist who brings out the melodic essence of each song.” - MUSICNET Magazine