Much has been made (including during the introduction to this concert) of the fact that Carter is the most-recorded jazz bass-player of all time, clocking up appearances on some 2250 albums/sessions and still counting. (These included early 60s sessions with Charles Lloyd, who appeared at the festival the following night.) Incidentally, his predecessor with the “most-recorded bassist” title was Richard Davis, to whom Carter paid tribute during this concert.
With a splendid team of Jimmy Greene on tenor, Renee Rosnes on piano and Payton Crossley on drums, Carter powered through non-stop medleys in each half of the concert, trawling through tunes from several of the great albums he has contributed to, seamlessly incorporating (if my old ears and memory can be trusted) Seven Steps to Heaven, Flamenco Sketches, 595 and Carter’s signature Mr. Bow Tie, with separate performances of My Funny Valentine, You Are My Sunshine and You And The Night And The Music. He concluded You Are My Sunshine with a coda comprising a pizzicato version of the prelude to Bach’s first suite for solo cello – Carter began playing cello when he was 10 but switched to bass in high school.
He has played in a number of superlative groups (not least Miles Davis’s “second classic quintet”) but this quartet can hold its collective head up alongside any of them. Crossley is an exceptionally musical drummer: using a modest kit he was constantly attentive to what his colleagues were doing, imaginatively adjusting textures and rhythmic patterns throughout but never losing the pulse. Rosnes’s playing was constantly absorbing, encompassing lush impressionism, gospel and soulful blues, whether accompanying or soloing. Greene (himself having a background in gospel) is an exemplary post-hard-bop player, and his solos were elegantly constructed and consistently exhilarating.
The band’s concert at last year’s festival was cancelled because Carter was unwell, but it was well worth waiting for this, and a pleasure to see him on such good form.
Ron Carter Foursight Quartet, Cadogan Hall, London, 16 November 2023 as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival