Regina Carter, was born in Detroit August 6, 1966, and was one of three children in her family. She is the cousin of jazz saxophonist James Carter. She began piano lessons at the age of two after playing a melody by ear for her brother's piano teacher. As a teenager, she played in the youth division of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. While at school, she was able to take master classes from Itzhak Perlman and Yehudi Menuhin.
Carter attended Cass Technical High School with a close friend, jazz singer Carla Cook, who introduced her to Ella Fitzgerald. In high school, Carter performed with the Detroit Civic Orchestra and played in a pop-funk group named Brainstorm. In addition to taking violin lessons, she also took viola, oboe, and choir lessons.
Carter was studying classical violin at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston when she decided to switch to jazz, but the school did not have that as a program. She transferred to Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. Here she studied jazz with Marcus Belgrave. Through Belgrave Carter was able to meet a lot of people active in the Detroit jazz scene, including Lyman Woodard. She graduated in 1985. After graduating, she taught strings in Detroit public schools. Needing a change of scene, she moved to Europe and spent two years in Germany. While making connections, she worked as a nanny for a German family and taught violin on a U.S. military base.
Carter returned to the U.S. and first came into the spotlight as the violinist for the all female pop-jazz quintet Straight Ahead in 1987, with Cynthia Dewberry, Gailyn Mckinney, Eileen Orr, and Marion Hayden. In the early to mid-1990s, Branford Marsalis was quoted as saying, "They truly swing." They released a trio of albums on the Atlantic Jazz label including their self-titled debut, Body and Soul, and Look Straight Ahead. Carter went solo before the release of their third album, Dance of the Forest Rain, and established herself as a force in the jazz world on the violin. In 1991 she left the band and moved to New York City.
While in New York she was a relative unknown and undertook work accompanying performers such as Aretha Franklin, Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige, Billy Joel, and Dolly Parton. She also played with Max Roach and Oliver Lake, as well as being in the String Trio of New York.
While with the trio, she released her first solo CD, Regina Carter (1995). 1997 saw the release of her second solo album dedicated to her mother, entitled Something For Grace. She toured with Wynton Marsalis for the 1997 production Blood on the Fields. She then changed record companies, from Atlantic Records to Verve Music Group, which allowed her more artistic freedom and she released Rhythms of the Heart (1999). She released Motor City Moments in 2000, paying homage to her home town.
I'll Be Seeing You: A Sentimental Journey, Carter's sixth CD and was conceived as a tribute album to her late mother, which included some of her favorites as well as American standards from the 1920s-1940s. Some songs include "Blue Rose" (Duke Ellington), "Sentimental Journey" (Les Brown), "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" (Ella Fitzgerald), as well as "I'll Be Seeing You".
Active as an educator, mentor, and proponent of the Suzuki method, Carter has taught at numerous institutions, including at Berklee College of Music, and two appearances at Stanford Jazz Workshop.
Regina Carter was awarded a MacArthur Fellows Program grant, also known as a "genius grant", in September 2006. The award includes a grant of $500,000 over five years.
1995 Regina Carter (Atlantic)
1997 Something for Grace (Atlantic)
1999 Rhythms of the Heart (Verve)
2000 Motor City Moments (Verve)
2001 with Kenny Barron: Freefall (Verve)
2003 Paganini: After a Dream (Verve)
2006 I'll Be Seeing You: A Sentimental Journey (Verve)
2010 Reverse Thread (E1 Entertainment)
2014 Southern Comfort (Masterworks)