- Legend -
Ron Carter is,
bar none, the single most recorded bassist in music history. With more than
2000 (not a typo!!) album appearances under his belt, it is pretty difficult to
imagine anybody ever touching Carter for prolificacy. Of course, in order to be
invited to that many sessions, it goes without saying that his fluid, elegant,
and perceptive bass lines have been virtually unequaled in the past 50 years.
Ferndale, Michigan, Carter began his musical development on the cello at the
age of 10. Due to the barriers preventing African Americans from penetrating
the world of classical music, he switched to the bass. Carter earned a
bachelor’s degree from the Eastman School of Music and a master’s from the
Manhattan School of Music, performing in their respective Philharmonic
Orchestras. However, his extracurricular jazz activities thrust Carter into the
middle of a burgeoning post-bop scene. Before he was even out of grad school,
he was performing and recording with other future legends like Eric Dolphy
(alto sax), Mal Waldron (piano), and Roy Haynes (drums).
His next move
would set the course of his career at a lightning pace. Joining with Miles
Davis’s Second Great Quintet in the early ’60s, he spent the next decade redefining
jazz alongside Herbie Hancock (piano), Wayne Shorter (sax), and Tony Williams
(drums). His association with Davis pushed Carter into wildly experimental
territory and led to a period of flirtation with the electric bass. Typically a
stand-up player, he helped to define the fusion genre with his bandmates by
grounding their space-funk exploration with his slippery-but-thick walking bass
The ‘60s also
earned Carter his reputation as among the most sought-after session players in
circulation. During this decade, he lent his sonorous tone to records by
Hancock, Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Lee Morgan (trumpet), Horace Silver
(piano), George Benson (guitar), Chico Hamilton (drums), and countless others.
In the ‘70s, he emerged as a respected bandleader in his own right, fronting
various combos comprised of the scene’s greatest musicians. He would become an
important exponent of the Third Stream movement, which blurs the lines between
jazz and classical music, as well.
next two decades, Carter was essentially the house bassist for the great CTI
Records. During the label’s period of maximum importance, Carter sat in on
innumerable sessions for jazzers like Stanley Turrentine (sax), Kenny Burrell
(guitar), Paul Desmond (alto sax), Milt Jackson (vibes), Herbie Mann (flute),
and pretty much everybody else of any importance to recorded jazz at the time.
In the ’90s
and ’00s, Carter showed no signs of slowing, even basking in the appreciation
of musicians outside the jazz bubble. Hip hop pioneers, A Tribe Called Quest,
tapped Carter for a guest appearance on their now-classic The Low End Theory (1991),
even as Carter continued to release his own work at a pace of roughly an album
a year. Ron Carter is a member of the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame, a Distinguished
Professor Emeritus at the City College of New York, and (unless anybody out
there can think of another candidate) likely the most-recorded musician alive
Clancy's comment: A true legend.
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