Saxophonist Jimmy Carpenter is one of the unsung heroes of the 24/7/365 world of New Orleans music, a mainstay from Frenchmen Street to the Maple Leaf in a variety of settings and an indispensable element in one of the city’s hottest working bands, Walter “Wolfman” Washington and the Roadmasters. Carpenter showed he had a frontman’s vision on the terrific 2009 release, Toiling in Obscurity, and now he’s followed it up with another understated gem. Walk Away showcases Carpenter’s unrecognized skills as a songwriter and singer in addition to his soulful tenor-saxophone playing (check out his breaks on “She’s Not You” and the tenor showcases “7th Street Shuffle” and “C King Blues”). Carpenter changes gears smoothly from R&B to funk, ballads, blues and jazz, with terrific support from many of his New Orleans bandmates and running partners. The great guitarist John Fohl really lets it rip on “When You’re Ready,” and powers the core band along with Casandra Faulconer on bass, John Gros on keyboards, Wayne Maureau on drums and Michael Skinkus on percussion. Anson Funderburgh and Mike Zito take guest turns on lead guitar.  ” - John Swenson

Offbeat Magazine

JIMMY CARPENTER WALK AWAY ON SAX/VIZZTONE  VTJC 14 CAN’T LET GO–WALK AWAY–WHEN YOU’RE READY–SHE’S NOT YOU–7TH STREET SHUFFLE–NO ONE’S EVER–MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE–HARD TO BE COOL–CRAZY ‘BOUT YOU–C KING BLUES–FAVORITE MUSE–ON THE OUTSIDE–FELLOW TRAVELER Jimmy Carpenter is one of the hardest-working sax men in New Orleans, playing regularly with Walter “Wolfman” Washington,Mike Zito and the Wheel, and many others.  Despite his hectic schedule, he has found time to release his second solo album, entitled “Walk Away.”  There are thirteen original cuts that Jimmy describes as coming from a tremendously-fertile writing period in his life.  The songs flowed from him based on his passions and overall love of life, and soon the album was completed. As one might expect, women were a big part of the energy that spawned this set.  Check out the leadoff cut, a  song about an affair that Jimmy is unable to clearly decide upon, realizing that  his love is so strong that he “can’t keep holding on,” but “Can’t Let Go,” either.  This one has some sweet guitar from John Fohl, and B-3 from John Gros.  Jimmy finds himself trying to move on with a new lover, but keeps running into one big  obstacle—“She’s Not You!”  “Seventh Street Shuffle” and “C King Blues” are sax-centric instrumentals, and Reba Russell joins in duet vocal on the set closing, poignant tale of  winners and losers along love’s highway, “Fellow Traveler.”  John Fohl’s tremelo guitar is subtle and fits perfectly over the vocals. We had two favorites, too.  The title cut is a funky shot of R & B that has Jimmy so in love that sometimes he wishes she’d leave just so he can “watch her Walk Away!”  “Crazy “Bout You” jumps right out of the speakers at you, full of Clarence Clemons-esque bombast with Jimmy’s sax hittin’ on all 8!! Jimmy Carpenter would be a busy man just working with other folks.  Thankfully, for us fans,  he has given us the good times and old-school soul of “Walk Away!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow. n” - Don and Sheryl

Don and Sheryl's Blues Blog

I just received the newest release (9/23/14), Walk Away, from Jimmy Carpenter and it has style. Opening with Can't Let Go, a strong melodic track featuring Carpenter on vocal and sax, Anson Funderburgh and John Fohl on guitar, John Gros on B3, Casandra Faulconer on bass, and Wayne Maureau on drums. Title track, Walk Away, has clean simple vocal harmonies and a slick funky beat featuring cool sax work from Carpenter. When You're Ready, another catchy tune, shows a stronger hand on guitar with the addition of Mike Zito and a stinging solo results. She's Not You is a slower ballad with a cool sax intro from Carpenter. Reba Russell adds nice backing vocal on this track and Gros warms the bottom with organ melodies allowing plenty of space for Carpenter to solo further on sax. Coming off with a strong strut, 7th Street Shuffle has a real nice swagger led by Carpenter on sax. Fohl has a nice op to lay down a cool guitar solo and Gros is right there with B3 over a solid lead bass line from Faulconer.No One's Ever is a cool R&B with a very strong melody. One of my favorite tracks on the release, Carpenter does a nice job on lead vocal and sax. More Than Meets The Eye is another strong radio track with nice trumpet accents from Antonio Gambrell and warmly blended vocals with Carpenter and Russell. Hard To Be Cool opens with a strong sax trumpet intro and a sultry groove. Carpenter has a solid voice and using a bari sax really pushes the depth on this track. A deep throated sax solo and Electric key work from Gros on this track sets it apart on this release. Crazy 'Bout You' has a bright poppy sound with an accentuation on vocal harmonies. The instrumental, C King Blues really puts me in mind of the great Curtis Ousley so that makes it one of my favorites on the release. With solid sax lead and a memorable melody, this is one of the strongest tracks on the release. Very cool! Favorite Muse has an easy jazz feel over a Latin rhythm. Fohl's clean guitar work, Gros' solid organ styling and Maureau's snappy percussion hold tight on this track rounding out this track, primarily a vocal track. On The Outside is a bright and bouncy rocker with a catchy melody. Wrapping the track is Fellow Traveler, a simple ballad with a country flavor. Carpenter shares lead vocals with Reba Russell and also vocal duet. A clean simple track, this is a nice conclusion to well written release. Oh Yeah...boy can sing!” - Bman

Bman's Blues Report

When Jimmy Carpenter was first starting out, the number of girls who flocked around him when he played prompted a jealous local promoter to bemoan the fact that Carpenter had too many girlfriends. Thirty years later, it appears that's still the case. Carpenter says that his sophomore effort, Walk Away, was inspired by past, present, and future women in his life, enough to fill thirteen cuts with odes to and bitches about his paramours. But Carpenter is a gentle soul, so the reviews and regrets are more wistful than wicked. He honed his sax skills playing with Tinsley Ellis for a year before joining former Nighthawk Jimmy Thackery and the Drivers from 99-'04, then moving to New Orleans and hooking up with Walter Wolfman Washington's band the Roadmasters. He was able to utilize his sills as an arranger, as well, in the Crescent City and keeps busy as a sideman playing with musicians including Mike Zito and the Wheel, Eric Lindell, Anson Funderburgh, Honey Island Swamp Band and Papa Grows Funk. Along the way, Carpenter has developed into a fine vocalist as well. Carpenter shows off his Muscle Shoals influences on “Walk Away,” snaky, funky soul with King Curtis-inspired riffs. Former Dr John and the Lower 911 guitarist John Fohl provides Cornell Dupree licks as Carpenter howls soulfully, “sometimes I wish you'd leave me so I could watch you walk away.” He pays homage to Curtis again on the instrumental “C King Blues,” smooth, soulful honkery gliding over that kudzu covered wall of Muscle Shoals laid back, deep southern honeyed old school r&b groove. Carpenter's duet with Reba Russell on the closer, “Fellow Traveler” is stunning. The vocal harmony is ethereal, ringing with the grace of a Carter family offering. It's what country ought to be, one foot in the past and one in the present, crossing over effortlessly from gospel to country to soul. Sandwiched in between are testimonials to a bevy of beautiful babes who have stepped on his heart, leaving footprints of varying depth. “She's Not You” has a Hall and Oates feel with it's bluesy, melancholy soul. “More Than Meets the Eye” addresses a chance almost blown because a pretty facade covered up an interior treasure with more lasting power and depth. Walk Away is a great second effort, beautifully produced and backed by an outstanding array of New Orleans musicians. Carpenter titled his first release Toiling in Obscurity. But with the work he's put in and the skills he exhibits here, that description no longer applies. Jimmy Carpenter is finally out front, in the spotlight where he belongs. Grant Britt” - Grant Britt


Friday, July 25, 2014 When A Man Loves Women: Jimmy Carpenter, Walk Away [Disclosure:  New Orleans treasure, Jimmy Carpenter is a friend.  That said, I’d be dancing around and singing along to this record for a long time even if I had never heard his name, because this is one beautiful, fun, and funky CD.  And, it’s sex on a stick.  This is one of the sexiest records in my expansive collection. Walk Away is good. Very good.]     Although a well-known saxophone sideman for many a great Blues guitarist (Tinsley Ellis, Jimmy Thackery, Walter Wolfman Washington, and Mike Zito to name but a few), Carpenter has earned an impressive marquee value in his own right, and has sat in with more major blues names than I could list here.  He’s also an accomplished composer, arranger, and lyricist, talents which present themselves empirically on each of Walk Away’s tracks.     Inspired by the past, present, and even future women in his life, the overall thesis of this record is that Mr. Carpenter loves the fairer sex.  A lot. This CD represents Carpenter’s lifetime Odyssey on the seas of romance, and he bares it all, his vulnerability in evidence with every phrase.  This is fearless writing which is what makes it so damn good.  That and one of the sexiest voices since Tommy Castro.  Nominated this year for a Blues Music Award honoring his Saxophone chops, this record informs that Carpenter’s vocals deserve similar recognition. Not to mention his wordsmithery.  The man can turn a phrase.   The title track is a cheeky (pun intended) number that should go down in history as one of the greatest tributes to the female derrière since Queen’s 1978 hit “Fat Bottomed Girls” (although Carpenter’s is more intimately directed than the raucous Brian May-penned song).  “Sometimes I wish you’d leave me, just so I can watch you walk away.”  Now that’s a great phrase.  There can be a thin line between honoring and objectifying, and Carpenter stays well within the realm of abject honor never sinking to vulgarity.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t:  Jimmy’s an ass man, pure and simple.     Here’s what blogger, Grant Britt,of, has to say in his review of the title cut:  “Carpenter shows off his Muscle Shoals influences on “Walk Away,” snaky, funky soul with King Curtis-inspired riffs. Former Dr John and the Lower 911 guitarist John Fohl provides Cornell Dupree licks as Carpenter howls soulfully, “sometimes I wish you'd leave me so I could watch you walk away.” (continue reading) And there’s a really sexy sax solo too. Rather than risk repetition, here’s a bit more of what Grant Britt had to say about the CD:  “He pays homage to Curtis again on the instrumental “C King Blues,” smooth, soulful honkery gliding over that kudzu covered wall of Muscle Shoals laid back, deep southern honeyed old school r&b groove. Carpenter's duet with Reba Russell on the closer, “Fellow Traveler” is stunning. The vocal harmony is ethereal, ringing with the grace of a Carter family offering. It's what country ought to be, one foot in the past and one in the present, crossing over effortlessly from gospel to country to soul. Sandwiched in between are testimonials to a bevy of beautiful babes who have stepped on his heart, leaving footprints of varying depth. “She's Not You” has a Hall and Oates feel with it's bluesy, melancholy soul. “More Than Meets the Eye” addresses a chance almost blown because a pretty facade covered up an interior treasure with more lasting power and depth.” The third track, “When You’re Ready,” is so fun, hot, and enticing that the mind can’t help but revisit our own similar experiences, and with this particular song, we’ve all been right there, letting an object of our affections know that the door is open, “When You’re Ready.”  And once again, he redefines sexy.     “She’s Not You” is both gorgeous and utterly heartbreaking.  Who hasn’t experienced this, both as the one who can’t forget someone who is “a hard act to follow, ” and the one trying to follow that act?  It’s a double whammy on the unfairness of matters of the heart.  She’s great, she’s just not you.  Ouch.    For me, the sultry, jazzy “Hard to be Cool” is hard to beat. It’s one of my favorites, particularly as in his insistence that it’s “hard to be cool, when I love you like I do,” is a marked dichotomy in that with this number, he’s at his coolest.     “Favorite Muse” is the song that speaks to me the most on this record.  It’s perfection, and that’s all I’ll say.     This CD flows without interruption, with the two jumping instrumentals offered up right when you need them.  And then there’s the final song.  The last track, “Fellow Traveler” is everything Grant Britt wrote and then some:   Fellow Traveler, duet, countryish. Carpenter's duet with Reba Russell on the closer, “Fellow Traveler” is stunning. The vocal harmony is ethereal, ringing with the grace of a Carter family offering. It's what country ought to be, one foot in the past and one in the present, crossing over effortlessly from gospel to country to soul.      Yes, and it’s also brilliantly placed, at the conclusion of a one-man journey over the potholes and pitfalls of love and romance, and with that genius pairing of voices, Carpenter reminds us that the fairer sex has her stories as well, and that he might even be the subject of a few of them.     There are thirteen tracks on this CD, and all are good, grooving songs, inspiring movement.  On my fifth (or was it sixth?) listen, I managed to clean the entire kitchen, including mopping the floor.  I can’t sit still with this CD. And I can’t stop listening.  Nor do I wish to.    The heartbreaks are all here, the unrequited love, the one that got away, the ones that simply moved on, and yet there is not one syllable of bitter indictment toward any of the women who’ve left imprints of heartache on Carpenter; instead he celebrates them and everything they brought to his life with abandon, as it should be.  Walk Away serves as a subtle reminder that we survive the slings and arrows of love’s outrageous fortune and live to tell about them.  Jimmy Carpenter tells great stories of his own heart’s survival, and we are better for it.     For more information on Jimmy Carpenter, visit  He has a long and storied history in the Blues.  And order Walk Away.  You’ll thank me. ~Honey Sepeda~  ” - Honey Bee

Honey Bee's Blogspot

Toiling in Obscurity is being played on radio stations all over North America. Besides having great taste, these fine stations are independent of commercial pressure,  enabling musicians like me to get their music out to the world. Please support them and their efforts, and PLEASE make a call or send an email requesting a song from Toiling in Obscurity!! Heavy  KHEN (Salida, CO)       Heavy  KLC (Portland, OR) (#5 CMJ Jazz), CMJ Jazz Add      Heavy  KRCC (Colorado Springs, CO) #2 CMJ Jazz      Heavy  KWVA (Eugene, OR)       Heavy  KXCI (Tuscon, AZ) #6 CMJ Jazz, tracks 7&4      Heavy  KZSC (Santa Cruz, CA) (#10 CMJ JAZZ)      Heavy  RadioIo (Wilkesboro, NC)       Heavy  WBZC (Pemberton, NJ) #7 CMJ Jazz      Heavy  WECS (Willimantic, CT)       Heavy  WFNP (New Paltz, NY) #10 CMJ Jazz      Heavy  WHCJ (Savannah, GA)       Heavy  WHRW (Binghamton, NY) #1 CMJ Jazz, CMJ Jazz Add      Heavy  WICB (Ithaca, NY)       Heavy  WMSR (Auburn, AL)       Heavy  WPKN (Westport, CT)       Heavy  WSOE (Elon, NC) #4 CMJ Jazz       Heavy  WTJU (Charlottesville, VA) outstanding album, #1 jazz      Heavy  WUPX (Marquette, MI) #5 CMJ Jazz, CMJ Add      Medium  CHMR (St. Johns, NF) CMJ Jazz Add      Medium  KBAC (Santa Fe, NM)       Medium  KGLT (Bozeman, MT)       Medium  KMHC (Gresham, OR)       Medium  KMHD (Portland, OR)       Medium  KRFC (Ft. Collins, CO)       Medium  KRFP (Moscow, ID) CMJ Jazz Add      Medium  KRVS (Lafayette, LA)       Medium  KWCR (Ogden, UT) CMJ Jazz Add      Medium  KWLC (Decorah, IA) CMJ Jazz Add      Medium  M3 (New York, NY) CMJ Jazz Add      Medium  WAER (Syracuse, NY)       Medium  WAIH (Potsdam, NY) CMJ Jazz Add      Medium  WDPS (Dayton, OH)       Medium  WDPS (Kettering, OH) blues all over the place. there's not a track to be missed on this cd!      Medium  WECS (Willimantic, CT)       Medium  WFCF (St. Augustine, FL)       Medium  WGAO (Franklin, MA)       Medium  WIDR (Kalamazoo, MI)       Medium  WJFF (Jeffersonville, NY)       Medium  WKPS (University Park, PA)       Medium  WKRL (Syracuse, NY)       Medium  WONY (Oneonta, NY)       Medium  WPKN (Milford, CT)       Medium  WQFS (Stokesdale, NC)       Medium  WUMR (Memphis, TN) Jazz      Medium  WVRU (Radford, VA)       Medium  WYBF (Havertown, PA)       Light  Bulls Radio (WBUL) (Tampa, FL)       Light  CFRE (Mississauga, ON)       Light  CFUV (Victoria, BC)       Light  CKUW (Winnipeg, MB) blues      Light  KAFM (Grand Junction, CO)       Light  KALA (Davenport, IA)       Light  KAMP (Tuscon, AZ)       Light  KAUR (Sioux Falls, SD)       Light  KBGA (Missoula, MT)       Light  KDHX (St. Louis, MO)       Light  KDHX (St. Louis, MO)       Light  KDNK (Carbondale, CO)       Light  KDUR (Durango, CO)       Light  KFAI (Minneapolis, MN)       Light  KHNS (Haines, AK)       Light  KHSU (Arcata, CA)       Light  KIDE (Hoopa, CA) blues      Light  KJAK (Flagstaff, AZ)       Light  KKFI (Kansas City, MO)       Light  KKJZ (Los Angeles, CA)       Light  KMUD (Redway, CA)       Light  KOTO (Telluride, CO)       Light  KPFT (Richmond, TX)       Light  KRCB (Rohnert Park, CA)       Light  KSJD (Mancos, CO)       Light  KSMF (Ashland, OR)       Light  KSUT (Ignacio, CO)       Light  KVMR (Nevada City, CA)       Light  KVNF (Paonia, CO)       Light  KWWC (Columbia, MO)       Light  KZYX (Boonville, CA)       Light  MOJA/VOA (New York, NY)       Light  WBIM (Bridgewater, MA)       Light  WBXO/Party934 (Milford, MA)       Light  WDBX (Carbondale, IL)       Light  WDCE (Richmond, VA) CMJ Jazz Add      Light  WEGL (Auburn, AL)       Light  WERU (E. Orland, ME) CMJ Jazz Add      Light  WGDR (Plainfield, VT)       Light  WJSU (Jackson, MS)       Light  WKHS (Centreville, MD)       Light  WLOY (Baltimore, MD)       Light  WMBR (Cambridge, MA)       Light  WMEB (Orono, ME)       Light  WMPG (Portland, ME)       Light  WMPG (Portland, ME)       Light  WMUA (Amherst, MA)       Light  WNTI (Hackettstown, NJ)       Light  WOAS (Ontonagon, MI) jimmy blows some mean tunes!      Light  WRHU (Hempstead, NY)       Light  WRUW (Cleveland, OH)       Light  WSCA (Portsmouth, NH)       Light  WTUL (New Orleans, LA)       Light  WUSB (Centereach, NY)       Light  WUSR (Scranton, PA)       Light  WVOF (Myrtle Beach, SC)       Light  WVUD (Newark, DE)       Light  WWUH (West Hartford, CT)       Add  CKUA (Edmonton, AB)       Add  KAOS (Olympia, WA)       Add  KAXE (Grand Rapids, MN)       Add  KBUT (Crested Butte, CO)       Add  KBUT (Crested Butte, CO) CMJ Jazz Add      Add  KCRW (Santa Monica, CA) to jazz      Add  KEUL (Girdwood, AK) CMJ Jazz Add      Add  KPFT (Houston, TX)       Add  KSAU (Nacogdoches, TX) blues      Add  KTUH (Honolulu, HI) CMJ Jazz Add      Add  WJFF (Jeffersonville, NY)       Add  WKDU (Philadelphia, PA) CMJ Jazz Add      Add  WLFM (Appleton, WI) with josh      Add  WORT (Madison, WI)       Add  WUVT (Blacksburg, VA)       Add  WYCE (Grand Rapids, MI) FMQB       ” - Powderfinger Promotions

— National Radio Promotion

Jimmy Carpenter, a veteran saxophonist in Walter “Wolfman” Washington’s band, steps out for an impressive debut as a leader with Toiling in Obscurity. Carpenter has all the tools, lacking only a successful front man’s charisma, but his songwriting more than makes up the difference on this very good recording. His band includes John Fohl, Cassandra Faulconer, John Gros and Wayne Maureau with guest horns, singers, percussionists and guitarists including Wolfman and June Yamagishi. Carpenter’s creative arrangements make full use of the colors these players bring to his palette, from the Afro-Caribbean groove of “Screeching Halt” to the funk strut of “Don’t Believe It,” but he doesn’t get lost in the process. He gives himself the final statement, a rousing finale on the sizzling jump blues tenor showpiece, “Upswing.”” - John Swenson


The Deal: Growing up in Greensboro, Jimmy Carpenter was a frequent visitor to the Double Door Inn, hitting the road playing sax with the Alkaphonics, Charlie Pastorfield and the Believers, Tinsley Ellis, Jimmy Thackery and the Drivers. Now living in New Orleans, the saxophonist currently divides his time between Walter Wolfman Washington and Eric Lindell. The Good: With the Afro-Cuban-flavored original "Screeching Halt," Carpenter's first solo record reveals a side of the sideman previously hidden in his supporting roles. Carpenter's covers are just as impressive. Backed by a boiling second line, he challenges Dr. John to a fonk-off on his take on Rebennack's "Back By the River." His smooth treatment of the James Brown classic "Prisoner Of Love" takes it out of Maceo territory and back to its big-band origins. The highlight of the disc is Carpenter's take on the Stones' "Shine A Light." Carpenter takes the tune to church while keeping the dirty back alley vibe alive. His vocals are impressive as well, a serious challenge to Jagger's ragged mumbles with an added bonus – you can understand the lyrics. The Bad: That it took him half his life to get out his first effort. He's impressive as a sideman, but this side needs more exposure. The Verdict: Fans of King Curtis will enjoy Carpenter's ballsy tenor swagger, but when the occasion calls for it, he's as smooth as David "Fathead" Newman. This is a great record, and an impressive debut. He'll be at the Double Door again on Feb. 12.” - Grant Britt

Creative Loafing Magaizine/Charlotte, NC

Jimmy Carpenter has been a professional musician for 25 years now, but it was only after relocating to New Orleans in 2004 that he finally sat down and started to make his debut solo album. Having worked on so many projects, he was able to picki some of the fines musicians around for this release, and it’s a very impressive offering. Jumping around between jazz, funk and fusion (fans of Tower of Power will find a lot to enjoy here). He is a fabulous saxophonist, and tracks like “Sinner Street”, which has some fabulous Hammond organ from Papa John Gros, are an absolute delight. As well as self-penned material, he also throws in a few rearranged covers, with a fine version of Dr. John’s “Back By The River” the best of the bunch-although his take on the Stones’ “Shine a Light” comes a close second. A lot of his saxophone tones are reminiscent of David “Fathead” Newman, but he can get rowdy when he needs to. However, Mr. Carpenter has taken this opportunity to sing, as well as blow, and it’s safe to say that he is no great shakes as a vocalist. That aside, this is a brassy and enjoyable recording.                                       Stuart Hamilton, Blues Matters! Magazine June/July 09, Britain” - Stuart Hamilton

— Blues Matters!

Jimmy Carpenter - Toiling In Obscurity Independent JBCCD001 Carpenter is a New Orleans saxophonist and sideman for Walter Wolfman Washington and Eric Lindell among others. His raunchy fat-toned tenor and beefy baritone have been enhancing recordings and live sets for other artists for around 25 years and this album is his first solo release. Backed by some fine Crescent City session players he kicks off with a salsa-styled original "Screeching Halt" concerning the protagonist’s clumsy attempts to rescue his doomed relationship: "I said I’d change to keep the peace // Remembering our two-year lease // But if you go can I keep the LCD?" The sleazy menace of instrumental "Sinner Street" follows, then "Common Man", railing against the contempt with which the haves treat the have-nots. The other original songs, "On the Skids" and "Don’t Believe It", have self-explanatory titles and a lively jazzy 12-bar instrumental called "Upswing" completes the self-penned numbers. The Rolling Stones’ "Shine a Light" is given a tasteful revival without bringing much new to the song. The romantic jazz standard "Prisoner of Love" becomes a mellow baritone sax feature with Walter Washington contributing half a chorus of guitar. "Back By the River" has some infectious 2nd line brass band blowing demonstrating Carpenter’s skill as an arranger, especially of horns. Generally, the instrumentals work better than the songs because, as a lead vocalist, Carpenter’s a great saxophonist. The songwriting shows some real promise, though, and I hope we won’t have to wait another 25 years for a follow-up! Rating: 7 - Kit Packham & All the best, Kit. ” - Kit Packham

— Blues In Britain

Rowe: Sax man dedicates CD to slain partnerThursday, February 26 ( updated 5:29 am) By Jeri Rowe Staff Columnist Jimmy Carpenter was sitting at his desk at his new house in New Orleans when he got the call. Billy Ransom Hobbs. Dead. Carpenter couldn't believe it. He called many of his old musician friends in Greensboro, his hometown, to see if it was really true. It was. His friend, his mentor, his old musical partner from Tate Street. Gone. Even today, five months after Hobbs' death, it's still tough for Carpenter to comprehend. It's the way Hobbs died that shocks Carpenter. Maybe you remember. Local nighthounds sure do. It was a Saturday morning, Sept. 13. Hobbs was staying with a female friend, who was grappling with the heartache of a deteriorating relationship. There, in her Summit Avenue apartment, they were beaten and left for dead. His friend barely survived. Hobbs, 58, didn't. His body was found in the ashes of a fire that destroyed a first-floor apartment inside Greensboro's stone-and-turret house known as "The Castle.'' There have been no arrests. Carpenter, a talented sax man, discovered his muse in Greensboro. He picked up the saxophone as a fifth-grader, played in the school bands at Kiser Middle and Grimsley High and went on to UNCG before the road lured him away. Hobbs was one of Carpenter's teachers. And Carpenter felt helpless when he heard about his death. But not for long. Carpenter had been working on his first solo release for nearly a year. He had brought in many of his musician friends from New Orleans and recorded nine tunes, steeped in the rhythms of Latin groove and brassy Louisiana soul. He decided to name his CD for one of his favorite phrases: "I've been toiling in obscurity." It's something he often tells folks when they asked about his career before he joined Jimmy Thackery, an accomplished guitarist on America's blues scene. Before touring with Thackery, bluesman Tinsley Ellis and New Orleans legend Walter "Wolfman'' Washington, Carpenter anchored the stage from Vermont to Key West with Greensboro's The Alka-Phonics. And before The Alka-Phonics, Carpenter hung close with Hobbs. They met along Tate Street in the late 1970s. Carpenter was in his early 20s when Hobbs, a few years older than Carpenter, took the young musician under his wing. Hobbs taught Carpenter some nightlife lessons. Like eat something before you swim in alcohol. But he also taught Carpenter some life lessons about the beauty you can find in your music and your neighbor. They played together, along Tate Street, in the Little Alfred Band. So, when Carpenter was finishing the first solo release of his quarter-century career, he knew what to do. It's sixteen words. You find it just inside the jacket of "Toiling In Obscurity,'' which he released last month. Dedicated to the memory of Billy Ransom Hobbs, a true friend to me and countless others. "I was really hurt by it,'' says Carpenter, 49, from New Orleans, his city since February 2004. "It was a long time ago when I was hanging on Tate Street. But I don't think everybody back then appreciated the level of creativity and the vibe going on there. "There were some amazing musicians and artists and just characters hanging down there,'' he says. "And it was a major part of what made me who I am now. And Billy was a big part of that.'' Contact Jeri Rowe at 373-7374 or” - Jeri Rowe

Greensboro News & Record