Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 27, 2009

Carter enjoys role as side man

By TIM PRESTON / The Independent

Ashland — Local musician Jeff Carter doesn’t want to be in the spotlight, although he likes to stay close enough to it to feel the heat.

Carter, 39, the son of Bruce and Karen Carter, grew up in the Lloyd community and developed an initial interest in music as a natural part of life around the family home.

“Music was always around the house. There was music all around. My dad played sax in high school and I remember him playing guitar learning to play bluegrass,” Carter said.

His own love of woodwind instruments was born at the age of 12 when he was among a group of sixth-grade students who attended an introduction-to-band session. The saxophone was his immediate choice when asked what he might be interested in learning to play.

“It seemed kind of cool — it did,” he said, recalling the moment and his preference for the horn his father played in school.

Great woodwind players require extensive practice during their first few years, and Carter said he was no exception.

“No one is ever good right away, at least not with woodwind instruments,” he said, explaining the difficulty of developing good tone on such an instrument compared to the relative ease of striking a single note on a piano or guitar. “All you have to do is listen to any beginning band to know that’s true.”

Carter said he recently came across a recording of himself playing saxophone during the formative years, and was excited to hear the tape — until he hit the play button.

“That’s a good way to be humbled,” he said with a chuckle, shaking his head from side to side.

While many perceive Carter as a multi-instrumentalist (he does play clarinet and flute as well piano), he says he is really a single-instrument man.

“I play saxophone. I don’t claim anything else,” he said, later adding his grasp of additional instruments stems from a desire “to be able to fit wherever needed” in a musical situation. In recent days he has enjoyed writing music with the help of a computer, although he considers a piano, pen and paper perfect tools for that task.

Ashland residents recently heard Carter playing clarinet during the city’s first Oktoberfest celebration as part of an “oompah band,” whose members were collected from amongst Carter’s musical friends. Pulling together a group of brass and woodwind players capable of playing polka tunes was a bit challenging, he said.

“That was kind of the ‘good-buddy discount’ ... all the sausage you can eat if you come and play,” Carter said with a laugh.

Carter’s primary musical outlet is with the Lexington-based band “Platinum,” although he also has a deep appreciation for opportunities to perform swing music with fellow big-band enthusiasts. Platinum, he said, tends to play many weddings, private parties and corporate events.

“Last year Platinum was booked every weekend — even into this year,” Carter said, adding the band of five to 11 musicians commonly plays in a diverse range of places including Louisville, Cincinnati and Whitesburg. “It’s a pretty big circle.”

The swing music band Carter performs with has played under many names, he said.

“If they need a title we’ll come up with one,” he said, noting that group performs with as few as three musicians or can be called together as an 18-piece big band.

Personally, Carter said he has an unrestricted passion for performing at weddings.

“I really enjoy the weddings. I’ve been doing this for 22 years and for the first 15 of those I really didn’t understand what I did,” he said, explaining he gained a new perspective of the role when he wed his wife Noel and assembled a group of friends to play at their reception. “I used to see weddings as just another gig. Now I see it as being a part of the soundtrack of one of the best days of life. I relive my wedding day every time I play a wedding reception.”

If he had unlimited resources, Carter says he would genuinely love to put together a full 18-piece big band and provide guest shots for the abundance of talented musicians in the area. The dream band, “The Ashland Jazz Orchestra,” would play concerts at Central Park’s bandstand, as well as performances at the Paramount Arts Center and Ashland Community and Technical College.

“Huntington supports a symphony, surely we can do something,” he concluded.

As with most musicians, Carter does have a “day job” to take care of his family’s expenses.

“I pay bills for the city,” he explained, later adding his favorite job is being a father to his son Logan, and daughter Ruthie. His son, he said, seems to be following in his footsteps.

“He’s the best 5-year-old in the world. I’ve already gotten him in the habit of waking with the sun. As soon as the sun’s up he’s up too,” he said, adding the youngster loves to “bang on the piano,” and has produced a nice tone when given a clarinet to play. “He even played harmonica at the Paramount at a coffeehouse show.”

Carter and his wife attend Unity Baptist Church and he is also excited about the results of a recent recording project titled “Rise Up” with members of King’s Way Church under the direction of Martin Revely.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or at (606) 326-2651.