John Tapscott

Ron Carter

17 posts in this topic

This week I've been listening to some recordings with Ron Carter on bass -

RC and Jim Hall - Live at Village West

Benny Green - Kaliedoscope

and the AOTW Nefertitti

I am far from a bass expert and to me, Carter sounds fine on these recordings, though his sound is a different than that of many bassists. I know that Carter is one of the most controversial bassists in jazz and I'm curious as to why this is the case. So I hope some of you might like to discuss this - Ron Carter, pro and con.

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Like him. He gets a very nice, woody sound (on bass I mean - I don't need the other piccolo stuff) and has much drive. And somehow, if he was as bad as some among think, it just seems a little unlikely to me he got all the jobs he had (beginning with Miles, where he really was the anchor man).

ubu

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I dig him. His sound may be difficult to capture. I have some recordings where he sounds awful, like a bunch of snapping rubber bands. And some where the deep wooden tone is just real and riveting. I've never heard him live. . . .

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I love how he (and the whole band) is recorded on Joey Baron's "Down Home".

ubu

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I know that Carter is one of the most controversial bassists in jazz and I'm curious as to why this is the case.

Yeah, me too. That's the first time I've heard this.

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As far as I have observed, there are two aspects about his playing people object to:

1. his sound i.e. the way he uses the pickup

2. his intonation

Both are closely related, I have the impression his sometimes sloppy sounding intonation is due to the fact that he turns up the treble so the attack of his notes comes though much clearer. As engineer Jim Anderson replied to me when I inquired about Carter's use of the pickup on the old BNBB "he wants to let people know where the beat is". His drive owes a lot to this sound. On the other hand it enhances the audibility of the "pickup sound".

Without a pickup, his sound is much fuller, rounder and deeper, Johnny Griffin's Riverside LP "The Kerry Dancers" (now on OJC CD) and a 1980's session with pianist Michel Sardaby on the rare French label Harmonic are excellent examples. Because of that brightly colored pickup sound, the tonal center of his notes seems to be a little off pitch at times, but I'm sure he doesn't hear it that way directly at the instrument.

Sometimes I think his IMHO overuse of the pickup was a major factor in leading the whole Marsalis generation to do away with the "dreaded bass direct".

And some do not appreciate his tastes in music on his recordings as a leader. Well, some of it is a little too good-natured.

I think among his best albums are:

- his Atlantic/Embryo LP "Uptown Conversation"

- The CTI LP "All Blues" with Joe Henderson (can't understand why for all reasons this still hasn't been on CD)

- the Milestone "Piccolo" (it was a great band, I played this to death when was new)

I haven't heard enough of his other Milestone and Blue Notes, but most of them is at least very nice.

Edited by mikeweil

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It's probably inseparable from the direct-pickup issue, but I recall that early Ron Carter (up to say 1969) was one kind of bass player -- hip, alert, inventive, tasteful, etc. -- and that Carter from the '70s on was often twangy, self-indulgent, even just plain obvious and boring or crude, as though everything he played was being placed within quotation marks. At some point in that decade, his presence on a record became a reason to avoid it for me, unless there were some powerful other reason not to. Before that, though, the standard was very high -- not only his work with Miles of course but also, say, Sam Rivers' "Fuschia Swing Song" and a terrific album under Bobby Timmons' name, "The Soul Man" I think it was, with Wayne Shorter and Jimmy Cobb.

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- The CTI LP "All Blues" with Joe Henderson (can't understand why for all reasons this still hasn't been on CD)

- the Milestone "Piccolo" (it was a great band, I played this to death when was new)

Interesting. Those were the two that I would have mentioned. I don't have a problem with him otherwise. I don't think the releases under his own name otherwise have been particularly interesting or innovative, though.

He must be doing something right simply because of all the sessions he's been on.

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Hard to fault the man's playing based on his contributions to the Plugged Nickel recordings alone. Good gracious.

I've actually heard some "controversial" remarks too, but they were about Carter the person, and not Carter the bassist. At any rate, I've always treated them as mere speculation.

The guy can play. And he can read Herbie Hancock's mind. Some of their exchanges on The All Seeing Eye are down-right scary.

:alien:

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Judging from the title and subtitle of this thread, can I ever hope that "Ron Carter" is the topic of discussion on the next edition of "Crossfire" - on CNN???? :g

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I don't think the releases under his own name otherwise have been particularly interesting or innovative, though.

In a way he's one of the players I enjoy much more on other people's record dates. (Would make a nice topic - or isn't there one like it already?). He is a good bandleader, judging from the piccolo bass quartet and his later groups, but maybe not that great a conceptualist when it comes to planning an album.

Maybe we are taking this all too serious. Remember that great humorous music made by a quartet of Eddie Harris, Cedar Walton, Ron Carter and Billy Higgins. Some of Carter's music sounds a little tongue-in-cheek, doesn't it?

With a musician so successful, rumors about his personality are unavoidable. He's one of the greatest bassists in jazz after 1960, period. He has recorded more than enough music to justify this placement.

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When he wants to, he can still deliver the goods. Problem is, he doesn't always seem to want to. Bad pitch, over-reliance on some pet devices, seemingly just going through the motions ("playing" rather than PLAYING), these are all things that the Ron Carter of today (NOT the Ron Carter of yesterday) seems as likely to deliver as an inspired, meaty performance. I'm sure he's got his reasons, but don't we all? I still keep an ear on him, though, because a GOOD Ron Carter gig is someting worth hearing.

Call him the Freddie Hubbard of the bass. It fits, in my opinion.

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What a bummer. Ron and Freddie produced some of my favorite recordings, often together. I guess it is too much to ask that they maintain a high level of performing forever.

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It ain't how high you can keep yourself that matters, it's how low you can keep yourself from going.

That's true of a lot of things, come to think of it...

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well, i went to his concert here in Rio for the first time and i was very excited when he started the first notes of So What. Ron is one of my heroes in jazz since i was a kid listening to all the CTI output.

concert was great and i was lucky enough to chat a little bit with Stephen Scott (a favorite of mine too) after the gig.

i would recommend his double album released by 32jazz where he is joined by Houston Person " The Complete Muse Sessions"

peace

Marcus Oliveira

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Ron Carter has, IMHO, what all great jazz musicians aspire to: an individualized and unique "sound". You can usually tell its him in just a few notes. Just like any other instrument, it's that unique "sound" that sets the great bassists like Ray Brown, Oscar Pettiford, Mingus, Scott LaFaro, Eddie Gomez, Paul Chambers, Doug Watkins and so many others apart.

My biggest problem with some of the younger bassists today IMO, like for example Christain McBride, is that they all sound like Ray Brown and if I want to hear some Ray, well, I'll go right to the source...

Then, of course, Christian McBride is young and still has time to "find' his own sound.

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I think what is special about Ron is his tone (after the CTI's I've heard his tone goes completely bass direct) his taste, and his elastic ability to play around with time, and play really odd sounding things that sound just right, like his signature "boinging rubber band" lick that he does. I think Ron's tone when DI'ed totally ruins something for me. I saw him on BET on Jazz playing "Loose Change", from the 70's, his tone was AWFUL, and the solo was just incredibly boring, as great as he is, this solo was filled with an inappropriate number of masturbatory trills, and other bass gymnastics that in that setting, didn't work.

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