Interview with Ron Carter
A week ago I interviewed bassist Ron Carter.
Ron Carter was born in Ferndale, Michigan. He started to play cello at the age of 10, and was soon playing chamber concerts; (…) later he changed to double-bass. Played and recorded with Eastman Philharmonia Orchestra before first professional engagement with Chico Hamilton, 1959. 1960-2 freelanced with many people including Eric Dolphy, with whom he recorded several times on cello, Cannonball Adderley, Jaki Byard, Randy Weston, Bobby Timmons, Mal Waldron. (Ian Carr, Jazz, The Essential Companion).
His first records were made with Eric Dolphy (another former member of Hamilton’s group) and Don Ellis, in 1960. His own first date as leader, Where?, with Dolphy and Mal Waldron and a date also with Dolphy called Out There with George Duvivier and Roy Haynes and Carter on cello; its advanced harmonies and concepts were in step with the third streammovement.
Carter came to fame via the second great Miles Davis quintet in the early 1960s, which also included Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Tony Williams. Carter joined Davis’s group in 1963, appearing on the album Seven Steps to Heaven and the follow-up E.S.P., the latter being the first album to feature only the full quintet. It also featured three of Carter’s compositions (the only time he contributed compositions to Davis’s group). He stayed with Davis until 1968 (when he was replaced by Dave Holland), and participated in a couple of studio sessions with Davis in 1969 and 1970. Although he played electric bass occasionally during this period, he has subsequently eschewed that instrument entirely, and now plays only acoustic bass.
After leaving Davis, Carter was for several years a mainstay of CTI Records, making albums under his own name and also appearing on many of the label’s records with a diverse range of other musicians. Notable musical partnerships in the ’70s and ’80s included Joe Henderson, Houston Person, Hank Jones, and Cedar Walton. During the 1970s he was a member of the New York Jazz Quartet. (wikipedia)
1981, he was again reunited with Hancock and Williams, when the Hancock quartet, featuring Wynton Marsalis (tpt) toured the USA, Europe and Japan, where they recorded a double album. (Carr)
In 2001, Carter collaborated with Black Star and John Patton to record “Money Jungle” for the Red Hot Organization’s compilation album, Red Hot + Indigo, a tribute to Duke Ellington.
Carter was Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the Music Department of The City College of New York, having taught there for twenty years, and received an honorary Doctorate from the Berklee College of Music, in Spring 2005. He joined the faculty of the Juilliard School in New York City in 2008, teaching bass in the school’s Jazz Studies program.
Carter’s authorized biography, “Ron Carter: Finding the Right Notes,” by Dan Ouellette was published by ArtistShare in 2008. (Wikipedia)
Mr. Carter, you’re active in music for more than 5 decades. In which way music evolved since you started? We know there are labels for different kinds of music, can we label your music?I have never been bothered by the names people have given this music…when asked what I call this music, I always say…come hear the band, then you tlle me your title for this music.
Yusef Lateef said to me in an interview the word Jazz is a misnomer, what is your opinion?
What does he call it?According to the Penguin Guide of Jazz “Third Plane” is your best album. Is this album your favourite too? (if not) Which album you produced do you like best? Why?Since each album was different and offered different challanges, they are all my favorite.
Miles Davis. You have been touring with him an playing with him on 15 (or more) albums. He’s been an example for a generation of (jazz)musicians. This year it’s twenty-two years ago he has perished (as many great musicians you played with passed last three decades). What does this mean to you?That he was a very important figure in the development…that he was my friend, and I miss him.
And Eric Dolphy. He once said: ‘I play notes that would not ordinarily be said to be in a given key, but I hear them as proper. I don’t think I “leave the changes”as the expression goes; every note I play has some reference to the chords of the piece.” You played with Dolphy the early sixties. Was it difficult to accompany him?Eric and I made some records together and played with Chico Hamilton…and to me, his note choices were fine.Do you still learn from your youthful colleagues and what should they learn form you? Are you inspired by them as you were by your colleagues you played with in the sixties and seventies?Any player that listens to the bassist in their group is my friend…and I enjoy playing with them.
In what way bassplaying has been changed since you are active in music?, you can answer?With the advent of bass pick-ups, better bass mikes in clubs and concerthalls has made the bass sound much more present and has made the bassist much more aware of his/her effect on the music. It also points up his/ her short comings ont the instrument, as well as playing better changes, better pitch, better sound.
Next week I will interview pianist Mrs. Carla Bley. Do you have a question for her?Yes…how is Steve Swallow?
Your musical activities span a wide range of styles and combinations. Which projects do you keep in store for us?I just recorded my trio (Russell Malone, huitar, Donald Vega, piano) live in Japan….a lovely CD!