Ron Carter, born in Michigan in the 30’s, to just say he simply plays the bass would be a massive understatement, he is THE bass player, a colossus in the world of Jazz. He has been part of over 2,200 recordings making him one of the most recorded artists in jazz history alongside Ray Brown and Milt Hinton.
We are going to share with you just eight of them recordings by some of jazz and soul music’s biggest artist’s but all featuring the bass of Ron Carter.
Sunbirds - My Dear Groovin (A flute driven jazz groover)
Johnny “Hammond” Smith - Catch My Soul (funky organ stomper)
Quincy Jones - There's A Train Leavin (It’s Quincy ‘nuff’ said)
Donald Bryd - The Dude (Jazz funk numero uno)
Roberta Flack - No Tears (Tunes don’t get much bigger)
Mark Murphy - We Could Be Flying (Soul Jazz at it’s best)
Marlena Shaw - Easy Evil (Sultry soul cover of a very popular 70’s track by Alan O’ Day - check the story here)
Marlena Shaw - Let’s Move And Groove (You said it Esther)
Walk or wander into the world of jazz. Ron Carter is there. His reputation in the music world is peerless. He stylishly accompanies any player or group and, without breaking stride, performs with stunning virtuosity as a soloist. His work is rich in detail, pure in sound, and technically impressive. His long list of accolades as a performer is unprecedented; he may be the most popular bassist there is. A lean six feet four inches with a mixture of pride and courtliness, Ron displays an elegant calm on stage as well as off. He has created music with consummate skill for more than forty-five years, apparently without rumpling his tasteful suits or raising a serious sweat. In the early 1960s, he performed throughout the United States in nightclubs and concert halls with Eric Dolphy, Jaki Byard, and Wes Montgomery, then toured Europe with Cannonball Adderley. He was a member of Miles Davis’s now classic quintet from 1963 to 1968, along with Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, and Wayne Shorter and drummer Tony Williams, playing on the album Seven Steps to Heaven and E.S.P. Carter also performed on some of their solo releases.
After leaving Miles Davis, Carter was for several years a mainstay of CTI Records, making albums under his own name and also appearing on multiple labels across right across the 1970s and 1980s on various labels including Blue note with artist’s including, Gil Scott Heron (Pieces of a Man LP and the legendary track ‘The revolution will not be televised’.
Ron was among the few bassists who continued to play acoustic bass when many turned to electric bass. “It was a conscious choice,” he says. “I felt a responsibility to present a viable alternative to the popular electric sound.” One of Ron’s chief traits is that he creates bass lines so harmonically and rhythmically rich that soloists must go far to respond to his challenge. As he puts it: “A good bassist determines the direction of any band.” Often Ron uses gonglike tones and glissandos in his work. Once his exclusive trademark, these sounds have now become part of every modern bassist’s vocabulary.
When he first formed his own group, the bass was not generally considered a lead instrument. Ron found a solution in the piccolo bass, an instrument one-half the size of a standard bass. He tuned the instrument so as to foster an unusual sound quality, one that stands out in an ensemble. Backed by a quartet of piano, drums, percussion, and an additional bass, Ron created one of the most distinctive and unusual jazz combos ever heard.
Among the many classic records that Ron’s bass has graced are Bobbi Humphrey ‘Smiling faces sometimes’, Grover Washington Jr ‘Inner City blues & Troubleman, Freddie Hubbard ‘Red Clay’, Horace Silver ‘The sophisticated hippie’, Herbie Mann ‘Kabuki Rock’, jazz funk legend Roy Ayers on the track ‘We live in Brooklyn baby’ arguably the greatest ever soul and disco producer Norman Connors on ‘Dreams’ and incredibly even a Disco track from Bette Midler.
Even this selection still doesn’t do justice to the list of artist’s that Ron worked with, there was Chico Hamilton, Gene Ammons, Yusef Lateef, Joe Henderson, Benny Golson, Charles Earland, Eddie Harris, Idris Muhammad, Gene Harris, Airto Moreira, Oliver Nelson, Flora Purim, Gary Bartz, Astrud Gilberto, Hubert Laws, Deodata, Johnny Hammond Smith and if that isn’t impressive enough also the legends of Jazz amongst them Chet Baker, Stan Getz, Alice Coltrane and Thelonious Monk.
Also appearing in more recent times with the Tribe Called Quest’s on the album ‘The Low End Theory on a track called “Verses from the Abstract”.
He is also a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the Music Department of The City College of New York, having taught there for twenty years and received an honorary Doctorate from the Berklee College. He still finds time to teach bass in a New York school and is involved in Charity work to help the victims of hurricane Katrina.
He is is a multi Grammy Award winner for Best Jazz Instrumental Group and in 1998 for “an instrumental composition for the film” Round Midnight, he also provided Soundtracks for Midnight Cowboy and tv show Twin Peaks. Carter appeared as himself in an episode of the HBO series Treme entitled “What Is New Orleans” and made an appearance in Robert Altman’s 1996 film , Kansas City.
Approaching 80 years old Carter is still a recording and touring artist, working fairly recently with Jeremy Pelt and Larry Brown Jr. Close to 40 Studio recorded albums released as a band leader and they include: Blues Farm (1973); All Blues (1973); Spanish Blue (1974); Anything Goes (1975); Yellow & Green (1976); Pastels (1976); Piccolo (1977); Third Plane (1977); Peg Leg (1978); and A Song for You (1978).
So even if you’ve never heard of Ron Carter it is impossible you have not heard him play bass as his music has been heard for over 60 years on the radio, television, cinema, bars and nightclubs and for the record collectors and music lovers, you’ve already owned something he played on but were maybe never aware of it.
This 100 track playlist only spans a 10 year period between 1970-1980 and contains some of my favourite tracks and many quality ones I’d not heard before until I created this list a few years ago, Ron’s bassline can be heard across soul, disco and all types of jazz including jazz funk and latin jazz.
Tracks featured are now in our archived playlist but you can still listen here and check out the latest music added to our playlist above.
You can learn even more about Ron Carter here:
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When did the blues become indigo is a reference made by a music journalist I read some years ago, it’s meaning is about how one genre of music mutates into another, we continually search to discover new shades to add to that spectrum and tell the story of how the blues transformed into today’s music, follow us above and go here to submit your own music to appear on our playlists.