A bassman for all reasons

Jazz fans will get a chance to feed off some of Ron Carter's richly sequined instrumental skills in Tel Aviv next week.

ron carter  (photo credit: )
ron carter
(photo credit: )
One tends to think of the older generation of artists as more rooted in the source styles and, possibly, less inclined to mix it with the younger crowd. However, 70-year-old jazz bassist Ron Carter has just about done it all over the past almost half century. His predominantly softly softly jazz approach notwithstanding. Local jazz fans will get a chance to feed off some of Carter's richly sequined instrumental skills next week when the bassman brings his longstanding quartet to Tel Aviv for a 3-day 6-gig stopover. Carter, who first came to wider notice when, in 1963, he joined iconic trumpeter Miles Davis' great quintet, has been a boon to every combo he has supported and led since those halcyon days with Davis, and before. He put out his first record as leader back in 1961 and has released close to 40 albums all told under his own name. Add to that around 3,500 recording slots as a sideman and you get some idea of the esteem in which he is held by his professional colleagues. In fact, Carter started out trying to unravel the mysteries of the classical world. His first instrument was a cello, and later branched out to violin, clarinet and trombone. However, race got in the way of a classical career and he eventually gravitated to the jazz world, starting off with berth in combos led by pianist Jaki Byard and drummer Chico Hamilton. Carter has always been serious about his craft. While some jazz musicians learned as they went along, Carter was determined to make sure he had the best possible grounding in music per se, gaining a BA from the Eastman School of Music followed by an MA from the Manhattan School of Music. Besides his pure jazz endeavors, Carter has experimented with third stream ideas - a synthesis of classical music and jazz, with a strong emphasis on improvisation. But it hasn't all been just jazz. In 1991 Carter contributed to the CD "The Low End Theory" by hip-hop outfit A Tribe Called Quest. Considering Davis released some hip-hop recordings of his own around that time, shortly before his death, you could say Carter was only following his mentor's footsteps. Despite his enormous sideman oeuvre, and the fact that bass player bandleaders are few and far between, Carter professes a preference for running his own show. "As leader you get to be in charge of the music totally. You call gigs, the tunes, the beat. Most bass players don't have that chance. I enjoy being a leader, being able to call on the people I love as people and as players to play with. That's a great thing," he said in a phone interview from his Manhattan apartment. Next week Carter will certainly be playing with people with whom he has a strong personal and professional affinity, as he fronts a quartet he has played with over 15 years - quite a rarity in the demanding world of jazz where musicians tend to play in ad hoc outfits around the calendar. "I love this quartet," says Carter. "We know each other so well." The repertoire of Carter's gigs here will be based on a tribute album the bassman put out last year to honor his early mentor, entitled Dear Miles, primarily featuring numbers written or made famous by Davis. The Ron Carter Quarter, featuring Carter on double bass, Stephen Scott (piano), Payton Crossley (drums) and Rolando Morales-Matos (percussion) will play at the Einav Center in Tel Aviv on May 1 at 8:15 p.m. and 10 p.m., and at the Zappa Club in Ramat Hahayal on May 2 at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. and again on May 3 at 6:45 p.m. and 10:45 p.m. For ticket information call the Einav Center at 03) 604-5000 and Zappa at (03) 767-4646.