15 June 2011

The Great Ron Carter

By Lee Hardwick

There are not many musicians performing today who have a legacy as legendary as Ron Carter. It is reported that he has appeared on over 2,500 recordings. Well, I can't personally vouch for them all, but there are a few recordings that I can vouch for. I've listened to a lot of jazz and funk records over the years, and there are of course many which hold a dear place in my heart. It's one thing to listen to and really enjoy a cracking good song or album from a great performer. But it's yet another thing still to have a song or album woven into the fabric of your life. Like an inspired purchase shortly before a big move, which becomes a soundtrack to a transitioning moment; a special connection forever on.

It is with awe that I contemplate just how many albums which fit this category and also Ron Carter feature on double bass. And his presence is always unmistakably evident. These include albums like My Funny Valentine; Miles in the Sky and Filles De Kilimanjaro - some of the pivotal, game changing albums Ron Carter recorded with Miles Davis. The later albums were part of the reason why the sixties were so far out & off the planet. The artwork alone suggests amazing visionary things.

Ron Carter also recorded with Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams and Wayne Shorter during the sixties for Blue Note Records, and was a sideman on many Blue Note recordings of the era, playing with Sam Rivers, Freddie Hubbard, Duke Pearson, Lee Morgan, McCoy Tyner, Andrew Hill, Horace Silver to name a few. After leaving Miles Davis in the late 60’s, he became a mainstay at CTI Records where he made albums under his own name and also appeared on many of the label's records in the 70's and 80's including with Joe Henderson, Houston Person, Hank Jones, and Cedar Walton. Ron Carter also appeared on some funk fusion classics like Billy Cobham’s Red Baron from his 1973 album Spectrum, and contributed to A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory in 1991.

Ron Carter was there, he was a witness and a participant to this amazing and enduring slice of history. And he is still here, and I am happy to say he is looking great, even if he was battling a cold on the night. His stature on stage was part of the awe. A full size double bass is an awesome spectacle in itself. It takes a very special skill set to master this particular instrument. And from the moment Ron Carter walked out onto the stage, you immediately understood the connection between the man and the instrument.

I can only describe my impression of Ron Carter as a graceful and elegant giant. Much like his instrument of choice, Ron's stature compared to other men was at the high end of the bell curve. And the power of the big man and the big instrument resulted in powerful music.

Ron Carter performed as a trio and managed to bring together the perfect combination of musicians for the festival performance. Also in the lineup was Mulgrew Miller (Tony Williams Quartet; Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers) on piano and Russell Malone (Diana Krall Trio; Harry Connick Junior Big Band) on guitar. The three of them have been long-term collaborators and it showed. Playing a combination of the classic repertoire he is famously associated with, and some of his more recent recordings as the Golden Strikers, the entire (sold-out) concert was a joy and an inspiration.

The Melbourne Recital Centre is a delight in itself, and a lot of effort has gone into developing a supreme acoustic experience. The Melbourne International Jazz Festival lasts for two weeks and many, like me, would have travelled to Melbourne especially for this event. I stayed for four days of the festival and enjoyed it immensely. My stay, coinciding with the Australian Burlesque Festival hosted at Red Bennies on Saturday Night, was a recipe for a most memorable weekend. Not to mention I also attended another great event hosted by Red Bennies during the Stonnington Jazz Festival two weeks ago. The Jelly Tub Rollers featured at this event, as did the beautiful Zelia & her Josephine Baker tribute. Check out the review by Red Jezebell.

I have a feeling that the Melbourne Jazz Festival has just become an annual pilgrimage, and many more legendary weekends are to be had.

  • Lee Hardwick's 50 Years of Funk
  • No comments: