In the generally drab, conformity-ridden world of "Young Lions" and conservative neo-Bop, the young saxophonist James Carter stands as a beacon of hope. He possesses a combination of charisma, virtuosity, and infectious passion that is rare in the public eye of today's jazz world. Like Rahsaan Roland Kirk and David Murray before him, he plays with a deep understanding of and open-minded approach towards the jazz tradition, freely blending elements from the past and present while still displaying a voice of his own. His recordings have borne this out, too, both in concept and execution: he has taken on pieces by Ellington and Monk as well as Sun Ra and Anthony Braxton, and has collaborated with musicians ranging from Count Basie alum Harry "Sweets" Edison to Art Ensemble of Chicago trumpeter Lester Bowie. More importantly, he's made it work, fitting into each situation and animating the proceedings with his vocalized solos. Alternately humorous, aggressive, swaggering, and romantic, he's above all entertaining, and while his artistic vision may still not be quite on the level of his chops or enthusiasm, it is gaining rapidly.