November 01, 2012

By Joy Childs

LAWT Contributing Writer


After he and his quartet (piano, Renee Rosnes; drums, Payton Crossley; and percussion, Rolando Marales-Matos) confirmed why the 75-year old has long been regarded as the number one jazz bassist in the world today, Ron Carter could have emerged from the stage beaming, pleased by the audience’s standing-O and constant outpouring of applause and adoration for the legend.

Instead, asked how he felt about performing at this writer’s alma mater, his immediate response was quick and blunt:  “I’d like to see more people come out who are of our persuasion!”

What he was bemoaning was the lack of Black folks at Royce Hall last Saturday night for his gig, along with the Robert Glasper Trio, clearly expressing a frustration that runs deep in the hearts of many a straight-ahead artist:  ‘Where are the Black folks?’ 

Added Carter, “We need more help from your community [to get folks out to see live jazz.]”

His swift candor resonated with the backstage group (some even chuckling) that was assembled in the press area, both Blacks and Whites.

After a few more zingers, he declared, “Look:  All you can do, Joy, is play enough good melodies that someone takes one home with them …”

The Saturday night audience had the good fortune of hearing Carter perform enough good melodies that everyone took every one of them home.  After welcoming the crowd to the quartet’s fourth night of a tour that began in Shanghai, China, Carter opened with “You and the Night and the Music” from one of his newer recordings.

The 90-minute set doubled as a lesson on what today’s jazz bassists should sound like. As tall and handsomely bearded as ever, Carter ‘instructed’ the audience on recognizable but brilliant versions of standards like “Seven Steps to Heaven” and “Sketches of Spain” as well as tunes from his enormous discography. 

All one could exclaim after each of his solos was “Wow!” in disbelief at the beauty of what was played as well as the ease with which he plucked the strings.

Along with ‘big bass brothers’ Leroy Vinnegar, Milt Hinton, Paul Chambers and Ray Brown, Ron Carter is among the most prolific, most influential, most recorded jazz bassists of all time.  With more than 2,000 albums to his credit, he has performed with virtually every major jazz artist, past and present, a very short list including Cannonball Adderley, Tommy Flanagan, Dexter Gordon, Lena Horne, Wes Montgomery and, most notably, from 1963–1968, with the Miles Davis Quintet, as a member of the quintessential jazz group of those days.

He’s received innumerable awards and accolades, including a Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Group, the Miles Davis Tribute Band (1993), and another Grammy for Call Sheet Blues (1998), an instrumental composition from the film “Round Midnight.” 

Most recently, after 18 years on the faculty of the music department of The City College of New York (CCNY), he’s now Distinguished Professor Emeritus there.

Thankfully for jazz lovers, as a performer, he remains as active as ever. So do yourself — and Ron — a favor:  Come out and see him the next time he’s in town.

The Robert Glasper Trio opened with an all acoustic set. After many joking stops and starts, the leader showed why he’s the piano phenom flavor of today, playing Stevie Wonder’s “Golden Lady” and, most glowingly, Herbie Hancock’s “I Have a Dream.”


Category: Arts & Culture