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Clifford Carter

Keyboardist and composer Clifford Carter has blazed his mark in the worlds of jazz, pop, rock n' roll, gospel and more.  One of the music industry's most sought-after talents, Carter has performed and recorded with legendary artists ranging from Art Garfunkel, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Natalie Cole, Bette Midler, Carly Simon and Patti Scialfa to Chris Botti, Paul Simon, Betty Buckley, George Benson, Narada Michael Walden and Herbie Mann.  His playing can be heard on film scores, television shows and commercials.  He has been featured in a wide range of musical contexts from symphony orchestras to David Letterman's band.  His songs have been recorded by Michael Franks, Phyllis Hyman, Vanessa Williams and The Four Tops, among others, and for his own solo CD.  He owns Secret Road Studios, a versatile production environment, where he plays, writes, arranges and produces.

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Music played a starring role in Carter's life from the very beginning.  Born and raised in New York, he began taking piano lessons at six and formed his first band at eleven.  He initially performed in public as a singer until he got his first electronic keyboard when he was 13.  After playing in numerous bands and writing instrumental and vocal music in his high school years, Carter attended the University of Miami's School of Music.  During his college years, his talent attracted the attention of the Miami music scene.  His full-time professional career began at that time as he worked playing Miami clubs with local and national artists, among them Bobby Vinton, the Coasters and Motown's legendary Four Tops.

An offer to tour with The Four Tops took him on the road for the first time.  He spent a year with the Tops and recorded three albums with them.  He next joined R&B artist Phyllis Hyman's band and returned to New York City in the mid-1970s.  Quickly discovered by the New York session player elite, Carter became an invaluable keyboardist playing on numerous record dates, film/television scores and commercial sessions.  Some of the artists whose recordings he played on during that period include Eddie Palmieri, Ray Barretto, Joan Armatrading, Yusef Lateef, Don Cherry, Hank Crawford, and Idris Muhammed.  Already a favorite freelance keyboardist of many jazz and pop artists, Carter was hired by Herbie Mann to tour with him, culminating in a performance at the 1977 Montreux Jazz Festival.

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With friends Steve Jordan, Hiram Bullock and Will Lee, Carter formed the 24th Street Band in 1978.  He was one of the principal songwriters in the band, which made three records, played regularly in New York City clubs and embarked on a successful series of tours in Japan.

After the band broke up, Carter continued working with many different artists throughout the 1980s.  Some of the highlights included touring, recording and writing with singer/songwriter Michael Franks and touring with British art-rocker Bryan Ferry.

In 1982, Carter joined drummer Danny Gottlieb, bassist Mark Egan and saxophonist Bill Evans in a new jazz-fusion quartet, Elements.  They recorded five critically-acclaimed albums, performed and toured.  Carter also worked with Evans (a former Miles Davis sideman) playing on several of Evans' solo recordings, often contributing as producer and writer, including The Alternative Man, Push, Big Fun, and the 2005 Grammy-nominated Soulgrass.

In 1990, Carter began a long association with singer/songwriter James Taylor as a member of his touring and recording band.  Carter's long-time friend and colleague Don Grolnick was keyboardist and musical director for the band at the time, and after playing a supportive role to Grolnick as the second keyboardist, Carter became the sole keyboardist when Grolnick tragically passed away in 1996.   He remained in the band through 2001, playing acoustic piano and electronic keyboards. He worked on numerous Taylor releases, including the 1997 Grammy-award-winning Pop Album of the Year, Hourglass.

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Carter recorded Walkin' Into the Sun, his only solo recording to date, which was released in 1993 and described as "one of the most engaging surprises of the year" by Jazziz Magazine and "a showcase for the keyboardist's excellent musicianship" by Jazz Times.  The CD, a jazz/pop hybrid, features Carter's vocal and instrumental songs with a top supporting cast of musicians including Steve Rodby, Will Lee, Mark Egan, Bob Sheppard, Luis Conte and producer-guitarist Tim Weston.

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Aside from Carter's busy schedule with James Taylor, other highlights of his work throughout the 1990s included recording with singer/songwriter Martin Sexton, touring and recording with Rosanne Cash, and recording with long-time friend and E Street Band member Patti Scialfa.

A favorite of Late Night with David Letterman bandleader Paul Shaffer, he often sits in with the band to accompany the show's guest artists, and he's subbed for Shaffer as well.  He has accompanied a variety of artists on television programs ranging from The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Saturday Night Live, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, Regis and Kathy Lee, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The View to Rosie O'Donnell's 1999 Christmas special and VH1's Storytellers and Live By Request.  Among these artists are Al Green, Jewel, Christina Aguilera, the Black Crowes, Smokey Robinson, the B-52's, Rufus Wainwright, the Temptations, Little Richard, BB King, Lyle Lovett, Cher, LeAnn Rimes, Vanessa Williams, Michael McDonald and many others.

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Carter has played at star-studded music events such as the 1985 reopening of the Apollo Theater ("Motown at the Apollo"), tributes to artists including Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and Chuck Berry at the Kennedy Center Honors, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Sting's Rainforest Benefit in New York City, and Oprah Winfrey's "A Bridge To Now" celebration honoring 25 legendary African-American women, the concert for the 1st Annual Gershwin Prize for Popular Song honoring Paul Simon, and Fashion Rocks at Radio City Music Hall.

His keyboard work has contributed to numerous film scores including You've Got Mail, A Chorus Line, The Object of My Affection, The Muppets Take Manhattan, and the recent remake of Shaft.

Every year since 1993, Carter has been a featured pianist in the performance of "Too Hot To Handel," an innovative gospel/jazz adaptation of Handel's Messiah with several orchestras.  He has performed this work with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marin Alsop for the last eleven years, and a live recording of the 2004 performance was released in 2005. This is his third year performing "Too Hot to Handel" with The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

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In recent years, Carter has toured Europe with Bill Evans, appeared with the Ralph MacDonald Band at the Pan Royal Festival in Trinidad, performed at the Oak Room at the Algonquin with Broadway star Melissa Errico, recorded with Nashville singer/songwriter Suzy Bogus, recorded and arranged for Kiss drummer Peter Criss, and toured the Czech Republic and Slovac Republic with Czech singer-songwriter Richard Muller.

He also appeared on Patti Scialfa's critically acclaimed 23rd Street Lullaby, released in 2004 and toured with her that same year.  In 2005, he made numerous television appearances with Dolly Parton, performed in concert with Betty Buckley and trumpet player Chris Botti, and toured Australia with Bette Midler.  He was also the musical director for Decca recording artist Russell Watson's concert at the Nokia Theatre in Times Square in October of 2005.

In 2006, Carter began working with legendary singer Art Garfunkel, and continues to perform regularly with him both at home and abroad.

2009 highlights include appearing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cleveland with Little Anthony and the Imperials and Bobby Womack, touring the United States with Art Garfunkel, concerts with Betty Buckley, performances of "Too Hot to Handel" with The Colorado Symphony Orchestra and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and recording a soon to be released CD with leader/drummer Chris Parker.

Carter continues to participate in a variety of musical settings from clubs to concert halls around the world, to television appearances and recording sessions. All these of course are his hobby - his main job is to raise his three daughters with occasional time out to watch the river flow.


  SPECIAL THANKS to my brother, Philip Jensen-Carter,
for his contributions to my web site,
including his design of the main photo on the Secret Road Studios page,
for his "brainstorm" to use my piano photos on other pages throughout the site,
and for his creative treatment of those photos.


 

 

PHOTOS

Click HERE 
to visit our Photos page

 


 
 
 

SOUNDS

mp3 Download
(click on song title)

"Walkin' Into the Sun"
from Clifford's 1993 
Walkin' Into the Sun CD

Click HERE
for more info on this CD

Listen in Real Audio
(click on song title)

RealAudio
Get Real Player

"Caves of Kalalau"
Clifford Carter
from his solo CD Walkin' Into the Sun

"Earth Dreams"
Clifford Carter
Written and performed by Clifford Carter 
from the compilation CD
One Spirit & Dharma Moon Presents At Ease

"Tee"
Toph-E & The Pussycats
from Live in Detroit
Clifford Carter, piano
Will Lee, bass; Ralph MacDonald, percussion
David Mann, saxophone; Chris Parker, drums


Too Hot to Handel
Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop, conductor

"There Were Shepherds Abiding in the Field"
Clifford Carter, piano; Lillias White, vocals; Bob Christianson, organ
and
"Hallelujah"
Clifford Carter, piano; Clint de Ganon, drums

"Perfect Fit"
written by Terence Martin (vocals/guitar)
from his Lost Hills CD
Clifford Carter, piano
recorded at Secret Road Studios

"U R What U Hear"
Bill Evans
co-written and co-produced by Bill Evans and Clifford Carter from Evans' solo CD Push

"Birthday Party for a Mermaid"
Mark Egan
co-written by Mark Egan and Clifford Carter from Egan's solo CD A Touch of Light

 


 

LINKS
(Links Open in New Window)


Marin Alsop

Mark Egan

Doug Epstein

Bill Evans

Art Garfunkel

Steve Khan

Will Lee

David Mann

Ralph MacDonald

Chris Parker


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Copyright © 2006-2009 Clifford Carter