Swing States: Harmony in the Battleground
Release date: July 31, 2020
Label: Tiger Turn/eOne
For the momentous release of Swing States: Harmony in the Battleground, multi-GRAMMY nominee, MacArthur Fellow, and Doris Duke Award recipient, violinist Regina Carter has brought together an astonishing ensemble of consummate musicians: multi-GRAMMY award winners John Daversa (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Kabir Sehgal (bass, percussion), GRAMMY nominees Harvey Mason (drums) and Jon Batiste (piano) - renowned for leading the house band on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert - alongside the widely-acclaimed Alexis Cuadrado (bass). Releasing before the most consequential election in American history, and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests, this politically charged fourteen-track collection strives to illuminate the power of democracy and serve as a beacon of hope during these unprecedented times.
The COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be a humanitarian crisis like no other, and in 2020 - a year that serves as a hugely significant one to American politics - presents new and unfamiliar challenges to the country’s democracy. While we face this unprecedented time, celebrated musical force Regina Carter has set out to deliver an optimistic and encouraging project that extols the importance of taking part in the democratic process. Angered and dumbfounded by the sheer volume of registered voters who decided not to vote in 2016, Regina reflected, “voting is a civic duty and an extremely important responsibility, even more so now as we are living in surreal times...we have become a divided country of Red vs. Blue, Us vs. Them or Not Our Kind and that pot is starting to boil over.” On Swing States: Harmony in the Battleground, the opening track provides immediate insight into Carter’s childhood memories of the discrimination African Americans faced within the democratic system of the US as she highlights the sacrifices that many had to endure to gain the right of suffrage.
With the support of this veritable group of musical all stars, Regina selected the official (and some unofficial) songs of the “swing states” that will determine the election, such as “Pennsylvania”, “Swanee River” (Florida), and “Rocky Mountain High” (Colorado). A selection of other reimagined, apropo American classics round out the album.
A native of Michigan - a swing state with sixteen pivotal electoral votes - Regina opted to represent her home state of Michigan by including “Dancing in the Streets,” a song that is synonymous with Motown. Regina’s searing rendition of “We Shall Overcome” - an anthem of the civil rights movement that is still painfully relevant today - can also be regarded as a soundtrack for enduring and overcoming the ongoing health crisis. Representing executive producer Kabir Sehgal's home state is “Georgia On My Mind” and as he notes, “as much as I’d like to think of my native Georgia as a swing state, for now I will have to be satisfied knowing that “Georgia On My Mind” is beloved by people of all parties.” Regina chose to close the album with the theme song to Faygo Pop, a popular soda made in Michigan and in doing so, provides the listener with some much needed levity during the current times.
Swing States: Harmony in the Battleground was recorded at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University, with each of the group pieces arranged by John Daversa. Daversa also joins Kabir Sehgal on production duties, alongside Doug Davis and Harvey Mason Jr.
“The Swing States project is a musical contribution that I hope will help galvanize folks to get out, exercise their right to vote and encourage their brothers and sisters to do so as well.”
- Regina Carter
Perhaps the pandemic will reveal the resiliency of American institutions as well as the innovativeness of its people. At long last there may be a concerted effort to make voting easier: early voting, absentee voting, voting by mail, perhaps even online voting. The current situation might prove to be the catalyst to enfranchise more to participate in the democratic process. Sehgal continues, “we hope that Swing States: Harmony in the Battleground helps people forget about which states are red and which are blue. We have fifty swing states (and a few territories). We’re all Americans. We’re all humans. Let’s work together to become survivors.”
Derived from liner notes by Kabir Sehgal.
THE BAY STATE BANNER
Carter, originally from Detroit, trained at the New England Conservatory in Boston, and now lives in New Jersey. The Banner caught up with her by phone from her home. Read this full article here.
"A very cool concept album by violinist Regina Carter, compiling songs associated with “swing states,” the states that in American elections are up for grabs when it comes to their electoral votes and their political leanings." Read this full article here.
"Along with Carter’s singing violin, “Rocky Mountain High” features the effervescent talents of everyone in the Freedom Band: trumpeter and arranger John Daversa, pianist Jon Batiste, bassists Alexis Cuadrado and Kabir Sehgal, and drummer Harvey Mason." Track feature here.
SAN FRANCISCO CLASSICAL VOICE
"Now, with a successful career spanning more than three decades, Carter, 58, released her latest recording, Swing States: Harmony in the Battleground, in July. Recorded last December over a three-day period, it is a lighthearted, playful, upbeat, and celebratory salute to patriotism and was created to inspire people to get out to vote." Read this full feature here.
"With spoken segments linking unlikely musical choices played seriously and with passion, this is a much more powerful statement than all the convention bloviating on both sides could render. This is your clarion call to get out and vote." Read this review here.
"For Grammy-nominated violinist Regina Carter, the unique notion of cutting a jazz album about the power of casting a ballot in America was not all that hard to imagine, even if it did take her a while to decide on the specific form and musical direction that record would ultimately adopt." Read this full article here.
"Whether you swing towards red, blue or purple, Swing States offers “a beacon of hope during these unprecedented times” by stressing the commonalities and shared experiences in all corners of our nation. Kudos to Carter and her crew, who give a phenomenal performance!" Read this review here.
"You can hum these tunes while marching, while writing to your Congress people, and in the voting booth." Read the full article here.
"A selection of other reimagined American classics round out the album. Most of these songs are familiar but the interpretations are at times jaw-dropping." Read the full review here.
Dave Douglas chats with MacArthur Fellowship recipient violinist Regina Carter. Listen to the interview here.
"Swing States reimagines 14 songs, each representing one of the “swing states,” in an attempt to illuminate the power of democracy through music." Read the full article here.
"In many ways, Carter writes an enlightened and empowered sociological treatise, not with a pen but with a rosined bow." Read the full review here.
WULF'S MUSIC + BLOG
"Musically essential, but as a record in our times, even more so – listen, enjoy, and then get out and vote! Timeless!!!" Read the full article here.
"Violinist Regina Carter has made this record with the intention of drawing people’s attention to the importance of voting, and she’s done so with an impressive band that includes trumpeter John Daversa, pianist Jon Batiste, Alexis Cuadrado on bass, Kabir Sehgal on bass and percussion, and Harvey Mason on drums." Read this review here.
Players feature in the September 2020 issue.
"It's music to raise the spirits... The playing is excellent and Carter is typically magisterial, swooning, slicing, stretching notes to the breaking point, playing every phrase with feelings. She sounds like she's singing." Review in September 2020 issue.
"The Swing States project is a musical contribution that I hope will help galvanize folks to get out, exercise their right to vote and encourage their brothers and sisters to do so as well." Read the full announcement here.
GEORGE W. HARRIS
"It’s wonderful to hear politics in a positive light and sound. Purple state glory." Read this review here.
"For her latest album, violinist Regina Carter puts a unique spin on the term 'swing state'." Read the full article here.
"The playing is excellent, and Carter is typically magisterial, swooning, slicing, stretching notes to breaking point, playing every phrase with feeling." Read this review here.
DEE DEE MCNEIL
"Her entire album offers fourteen songs and short essays, stacked like buttermilk pancakes, fresh off the griddle and drizzled with warm buttery blues, like hot Alaga syrup." Read this review here.
"..few play the violin better in Jazz than Regina Carter. At this stage of her career, we get to witness her genius in action. And for 2020 that meant Swing States, an album that makes you feel great while getting out the vote." Read this 'Best Albums of 2020' article here.
Voted best violinist of 2021. Read the 2021 JazzTimes Expanded Critics' Poll results here.