Ron Carter: Finding The Right Notes

The bass luminary takes a compendious turn through the jazz repertoire, variously with Russell Malone, Bill Frisell and the WDR big band

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If ever a musician had a problem finding the right notes it wasn’t Ron Carter. His later work is represented on this CD, which contains music from a documentary of the same name aired in the US in October 2022. These tracks don’t come anywhere near the amount of material to be found in the film and some are additions not to be heard on the soundtrack.

The bassist is naturally a strong presence on every track, although it could be argued that a couple of these performances lag behind the others, the three tracks with the WDR Big Band being among the successes. The admiration between Carter and this tightly knit unit must have been mutual. Four of the compositions are Carter originals, two of which, Receipt Please and Blues For DP are WDR collaborations which work extremely well, the ensemble evoking a little of Basie on the latter.

The two trio items, bass-led and with Russell Malone and Donald Vega, are hugely enjoyable. The guitar and piano play some expansive stuff, urged on by the leader. A couple of disappointments emerge in Bag’s Groove and Willow Weep For Me, where Carter goes head to head with fellow bass giants Stanley Clarke and Christian McBride. On both occasions the bass lines seem to mesh untidily and the results are murky.

For the rest of the time, things run along very smoothly, the duet with guitarist Frisell on My Man’s Gone Now taking a highly individual approach to the Gershwin classic – the theme is only a reference point rather than an overwhelming presence. Things are bought to a close by singer and pianist Jon Batiste (from the famous New Orleans dynasty), joining one of his mentors for a joyful, knockabout Sweet Lorraine.

It is only left to be said that everyone should make it their duty to catch the documentary at the earliest possible opportunity.

Discography
(1) Receipt, Please; (2) Soft Winds; (3) Flamenco Sketches; (4) Bag’s Groove; (5) Willow Weep For Me; (1) Blues For D. P.; Doom Mood; (6) My Man’s Gone Now; (7) A Nice Song; (8) Sweet Lorraine (72.51)
Carter (b) with:
(1) the WDR Big Band. Cologne, Germany, 1-4 July 2014.
(2) Russell Malone (g); Donald Vega (p). Rhode Island, 3 August 2019.
(3) Renee Rosnes (p); Jimmy Greene (ts); Payton Crossley (d). Sweden, 17 November 2018.
(4) Russell Malone (g); Stanley Clarke (b). NYC, 2 April 2017.
(5) Christian McBride (b). NYC, 24 September 2019.
(6) Bill Frisell (g). NYC, 2 May 2017.
(7) as (2) but Germany, 30 October 2016.
(8) Jon Batiste (p). NYC, 29 September 2021.
IN + OUT Records IOR CD 77151-2