Carter's gentle bass pace

Ron Carter will, no doubt, get "the right sort of effect" in Tel Aviv later this week when he plays his double bass.

Ron Carter 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Ron Carter 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
When it comes to jazz pedigree, they don't come much richer than Ron Carter's. The 70-year-old bassman has anchored some of the greatest icons of the jazz pantheon for almost half a century, besides leading some pretty decent outfits himself. Later this week (May 1-3) Carter will bring his long-standing quartet to town to pay tribute to one of his principal mentors - legendary trumpeter Miles Davis. Considering Carter was a stalwart of Davis's great mid-'60s quintet, it seems surprising that it took Carter almost four decades to publicly pay homage to Davis. He released the album Dear Miles in 2007 and his six gigs here will be based on material from that CD. If nothing else, one would think a musician would have impeccable timing. But when it comes to jazz musicians, things tend to be a bit more improvisational. "People have different views of time. Expectations of T-I-M-E differ for different people," Carter says somewhat enigmatically, adding: "the [Dear Miles] album came when it was due. I don't have a long sense of time. I wasn't in a hurry." That says a lot about the man, and the musician. Carter is not exactly what you would call an in-your-face sort of guy, or artist. While he has fronted close to 40 recordings, he has been featured on well over 3,000 recordings as a sideman. Typically, Carter concentrates on the job in hand and leaves the posturing to others. "My job as a sideman is to make the leader sound better than he is supposed to sound. I have to be aware of their strong and weak points - and make the best out of it. I try to play over the heads. I enjoy that." Incredibly, even with such a rich track record, Carter is as keen as ever to prove his worth, and make sure he is gainfully employed. "If I support a leader well it opens up another avenue, another possibility. If I help them, perhaps they will remember me next time they are in town." Modesty aside, Carter is probably the most venerated bass player on today's jazz scene. As many of his contemporaries, and almost all of the generation before him that introduced the world to modern jazz, have passed on - it is up to Carter and his ilk to make sure we don't get swept away by modern hype. Carter hails from a gentler, slower moving world in which there was time to take a breather - when there was far more heart and brain than brawn. In our phone conversation we touched on a rare and insightful book by late jazz drummer Art Taylor called Notes and Tones, which features interviews with top jazz performers that Taylor conducted between 1968 and 1972. In the Carter section, the bassman is quoted as saying "I'm probably not the strongest physical player but I'll go out on the limb and say that I doubt there is another player who has more independence and coordination than I have. I dare say that if you could measure my sound vibration against the strongest player, his sound would not match mine in color, in length or in strength." And you won't find Carter plucking at his bass strings like there's no tomorrow. "The bass is a box, measuring about two feet by 10 inches. It's just a chamber. My concern is that people try to get too much into it, too much energy. You don't have to play loud to get the right sort of effect." Carter will, no doubt, get "the right sort of effect" in Tel Aviv later this week when he plays his double bass alongside Stephen Scott (piano), Payton Crossley (drums) and Rolando Morales-Matos (percussion) at the Einav Center in Tel Aviv on May 1 at 8:15 p.m. and 10 p.m. They will play the Zappa Club in Ramat Hahayal, north Tel Aviv on May 2 at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m., and on May 3 at 6:45 p.m. and 10:45 p.m. For ticket information call the Einav Center on 03-604-5000, and Zappa on 03-767-4646.