This post is to celebrate Ron Carter’s 85th birthday. In previous years I’ve done a mix of tracksCelebrating Ron Carter – Creed Taylor Produced (ctproduced.com), a “fourfer”Happy Birthday – Ron Carter – Creed Taylor Produced (ctproduced.com) and other celebrations. This year I thought I’d dig through my magazine rack and see what I could find. As well as details on some of Ron’s earliest performances, I was stunned to find some Carter tracks I’d never heard before and I doubt you have either(one is sampled below).
Finally, this post includes some of the work Ron has, or plans to do this year. Some of us wish we could have any year as good as Ron has planned for this year, let alone our 85th year. Read-on.
Apart from being “Star Wars Day”Star Wars Day: May the 4th Be With You | StarWars.com, May 4th 2022 marks Ron Carter’s 85th birthday. Ron is arguably one of the best instrumental musicians of all time. Most written pieces that describe Ron start with the number of recordings he has made as a bass player. That really doesn’t recognize the significance of his musical contributions. This year rather than make my own mix, I thought I’d take a look in my book and magazine racks for some interesting Ron Carter material and see what I could come up with.
Ron’s autobiography by Dan Oulllette, “Finding The Right Notes”Finding the Right Notes Ron Carter Autobiography – Ron Carter Books (roncarterjazz.com) includes a fascinating introduction to Ron and deserves to be on everyone’s bookshelf. In it Ron recalls graduating from the Eastman School of Music and leaving Rochester for New York City, with his wife, Janet, in 1959. With no job offer life was uncertain, they loaded up a U-Haul to make the 350 mile journey.
With this context, I went looking through my magazine rack.
I have some 130+ issues of Down Beat magazine, and have scanned and contribute some to online archives already. I hope to get the rest done this year. They are mostly from the late 1960’s brough the early 1980’s and specific issues before and after, that have specific Creed Taylor related material. I have four issues which feature Ron’s picture on the cover. I’m sure there are more.
The first mention of Ron that I can find in Down Beat is in the Christmas Eve. 1959 edition. Ron makes #15 for bass, in a year when Mingus came 4th and the bassist of the year was Ray Brown. Not a bad start. 1959, was of course a remarkable year, as Carter’s bio’ notes “The year was 1959, arguably the most seminal year in jazz history.” 1959 was the year Ornette Coleman Introduced the idea of “free jazz” Also quoted in “Finding The Right Notes”, Orrin Keepnews noted “1959 was one of those years when people weren’t saying that jazz is dying.”
The next mention Ron gets in the copies I have access to is the February 18th, 1960 issue. In the “Strictly Ad Lib” column on page-10 it notes: “The Randy Weston Quartet played a jazz concert for the United Nations Jazz Society in the UN [HQ/Secretariat] building. The group has, besides pianist Weston, Cecil Payne, baritone saxaphone; Ron Carter, bass, and Cliff Jarvis, Drums.” Later in 1960, Randy Weston’s Quartet, including Carter, would play in a 2-day festival on New York City Island.
Randy Weston would record a CTI album as leader some 12-years later in 1972. Unsurprisingly, Ron Carter played bass on “Blue Moses”, CTI 6016https://www.discogs.com/master/411803-Randy-Weston-Blue-Moses. This album holds-up well today, 50-years later. Ron also made his first recordings in 1960, these would include an acetate with Eric DolphyEric Dolphy, Ron Carter – Untitled (1960, Acetate) – Discogs, and sideman roles on albums by Yusef Lateef, Art Blakey and Elvin Jones, and Ernie Wilkins, as well Lambert, Hendricks & Ross who were the “it” act in 1960.
It would be 1961 before Ron was introduced to and would record on a Creed Taylor production. Ron recorded on two of the 4-to-launch Impulse! albums including Gil Evans “Out Of The Cool”https://www.discogs.com/master/177007-The-Gil-Evans-Orchestra-Out-Of-The-Cool and “The Incredible Kai Winding Trombones”https://www.discogs.com/master/273442-The-Incredible-Kai-Winding-Trombones-The-Incredible-Kai-Winding-Trombones.
Probably the last magazine I expected to find anything with Ron Carter in, let alone musically was an Interactive CD magazine published in the UK by Haymarket Magazines.
Following on from the original CD came the CD-i format. CD-i was a compatible extension of the original CD format, meaning they can be played on most standard CD players. On CD-i compatible players, like games machines and personal computers they become interactive, and you can select what you want to play and would game-like features.
Ron has played on a number of film soundtracks, including probably one of the classics for CTI fans, Herbie Hancock’s soundtrack to the 1966 film by Carlo Ponti, “Blow-Up”. This features a cornucopia of artists including Carter, Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, Phil Woods, Jack Dejohnette, Jim Hall and Joe Henderson. Enjoy track-4, “The Naked Camera” one of a number that feature Carter.
Ron Carter also played on at least one track on all all-time favorite New York City teen film, “Fame”, and again, at least one track on the Angelo Badalamenti original soundtrack for the David Lynch classic “Twin Peaks – Fire Walk With Me”. Here though, on two Phillips CD-i releases, Carter both wrote and scored the soundtrack for both CD-i’s. The 1992 Phillips CD-i catalogue describes the CD-i releases as
THE DARK FABLES OF AESOP
Aesop’s fables now hail the 21st century in a most exciting format: CD-Interactive! With Danny Glover’s compelling storytelling and original musical compositions by jazz great Ron Carter, these timeless tales have a contemporary, sophisticated flavor that appeals to today’s kids. The twelve fables have original illustrations and animation, and sixty mazes reinforce the morals in a fun way. Music and storytelling can be heard on most standard
CD-Audio players. Catalog No. 310690085-2 $24.98
MORE DARK FABLES FROM AESOP
Twelve more of Aesop’s fables illustrate his enduring wit and wisdom, with narration by Danny Glover and music by Ron Carter. Thirty sliding puzzles reinforce the morals in a fun way.
Catalog No. 310690086-2 $24.98
Ron Carter, composed, conducted; Carol Buck, Ellen Hassman, Kermit Moore, Carol Paisner, cellos; Steven Krron, percussion; Lewis Nash, drums; Leon Maleson, bass; Stephen Scott, piano; William Easley, Reeds.
I’d never heard about this at all. While there are thousands of written and recorded variations of the classic Greek fables, these are the only two scored by Carter. I was intrigued and have included here one track scored by Carter. I’ll have a look and see if I can extract the whole soundtrack. As far as I’m aware it’s never been made available separately.
Ron Carter’s 2022
As well as winning a Grammy, 2022 has Ron as busy, or perhaps busier than ever. The prestige event for Ron will be an 85th Birthday Celebration concert at Carnegie Hall on May 10th. As of writing tickets are still available starting for as little as $20For the Love of Ron Ron Carter and Friends: 85th Birthday Celebration (carnegiehall.org). Sadly, I can’t attend, although I do hope to see Ron in June before he leaves for a European tourRON CARTER 2022 PERFORMANCES – Ron Carter Books (roncarterjazz.com). Yes, that’s a hint if you are Ron’s social media or press team. I submitted an email request!
This morning, NPR posted an article on Ron by Tom Vitale “85-year-old bassist Ron Carter has no plans on slowing down”85-year-old bassist Ron Carter has no plans on slowing down : NPR. It was accompanied by this Ron Carter, Donald Vega & Russel Malone “Tiny Desk” concertRon Carter: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert : NPR.
Earlier in the year, Doug Neal alerted me to this WBUR interviewLegendary jazz bassist Ron Carter is going on 85 and still going strong | Here & Now (wbur.org).
Ron was also interviewed by Jamie Cullum on his BBC Radio show. Jamie of course performed with the very last incantation of the CTI All-Stars live in 2009The Story of the CTI All-Stars Live – Creed Taylor Produced (ctproduced.com)