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Ron Carter: All Blues (2011)

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Ron Carter: All Blues How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

In the 1960s and 1970s, few bassists were as ubiquitous as Ron Carter, from the experimental post/free bop of trumpeter Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
's 1960s quintet to straight-ahead swing with guitarist Kenny Burrell
Kenny Burrell
Kenny Burrell
b.1931
guitar
and the greater extremes of saxophonist Archie Shepp
Archie Shepp
Archie Shepp
b.1937
saxophone
. With the emergence of CTI Records, Carter became something of a house bassist for the label; on the recent four-CD retrospective box that launched CTI Masterworks, 2010's CTI Records—The Cool Revolution, the bassist appears on no less than 29 of its 39 tracks.

Given his wide-ranging musical interests, Carter's discography as a solo artist remains more than a little curious—largely right down the middle, though he does place himself in a more prominent position as a soloist and melodist. The introduction of his piccolo bass—a smaller upright that, tuned a fourth higher than its lower cousin and, thus, sitting somewhere between double-bass and cello— giving him an instrument capable of taking the lead and remaining undeniably a bass, while occupying a range more appealing to ears of a larger listening public that often had trouble hearing the lyricism of the original low-end instrument. Carter introduced the piccolo bass on Blues Farm, his 1973 CTI debut, but that more pasteurized date was far less successful than its follow-up, All Blues, just a few months later.

Rather than working with the larger cast of characters he did on Blues Farm, Carter sticks with a small core ensemble. Drummer Billy Cobham
Billy Cobham
Billy Cobham
b.1944
drums
—himself a somewhat ubiquitous presence on the label—was proving already himself as versatile and far-reaching as Carter, though this particular session is as mainstream as it gets, with Cobham demonstrating a grace and elegance unexpected from the powerhouse fusion drummer of the original Mahavishnu Orchestra
Mahavishnu Orchestra
Mahavishnu Orchestra
b.1971
band/orchestra
.

Still, mainstream needn't imply that this mix of four Carter originals, Miles Davis' iconic title track, and one standard, "Will You Still Be Mine?," is anything resembling safe, as Carter delivers the Matt Dennis/Tom Adair/Paul Weirick chestnut as an overdubbed bass/piccolo bass feature, closing the album on an unexpected note.

While pianists like Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
b.1940
piano
brought a combination of impressionistic flair and propulsive funk to his CTI dates, and Bob James
Bob James
Bob James
b.1939
piano
began his trip down a road to the smooth jazz of later years with Fourplay
Fourplay
Fourplay

band/orchestra
, Sir Roland Hanna
Sir Roland Hanna
Sir Roland Hanna
1932 - 2002
piano
brought a firmer sense of tradition to the relatively few CTI sessions on which he participated. Swinging hard on Carter's opening "A Feeling" with characteristic economy, his a capella intro to the bassist's balladic "Light Blue" is the epitome of simple truth; his touch and subtle dynamics more definitive than embellishment and bravado could ever be.

The bulk of the album features saxophonist Joe Henderson
Joe Henderson
Joe Henderson
1937 - 2001
sax, tenor
, his improvisational élan balancing Hanna's sparsity. Unlike later versions of "All Blues" that would often run at a faster clip, Carter's version here takes it considerably slower than the Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959) original, and everyone contributes to its relaxed vibe, especially Henderson's behind-the-beat phrasing and Hanna's measure voicings.

Another winner in the CTI Masterworks series of remastered reissues, All Blues proves there's plenty of room for exploration, even in the middle of the mainstream.

Track Listing: A Feeling; Light Blue; 117 Special; Rufus; All Blues; Will You Still Be Mine.

Personnel: Ron Carter: bass, piccolo bass; Joe Henderson: tenor saxophone (1, 3-5); Roland Hanna: piano (1-5); Billy Cobham: drums and percussion (1-5); Richard Tee: electric piano (3).

Record Label: CTI Masterworks


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