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There certainly hasn't been a shortage of artists recording tributes to Miles Davis since the trumpeter's death in 1991. The list includes contributions as diverse as Benny Golson's I Remember Miles (Milestone, 1992), Henry Kaiser and Wadada Leo Smith's Yo Miles! (Shanachie, 1998) and Cassandra Wilson's Traveling Miles (Blue Note, 1999). Almost forty years since parting ways with the iconic jazz legend, heavyweight bassist Ron Carter has decided to throw his name in the hat with Dear Miles, a swinging set of tunes closely associated with his former employer and mentor.
What sets this particular session apart from other tributes is the unique sound of Carter's current quartet comprising pianist Stephen Scott, drummer Payton Crossley and percussionist Roger Squitero. The group's fresh take on a handful of overdone standards pays homage to the communal spirit of interaction embodied in every phase of Davis' electrifying career.
Carter is a commanding force who will drive home his aesthetic vision regardless of who he is performing with. Fortunately the bassist has assembled a first rate group of congenial cohorts who share his affinity for high stakes adventure; teetering on the edge with enough assuredness to alleviate any fear of actually falling. As an alumnus of Davis' classic 1960s quintet, arguably one the most innovative ensembles in the history of jazz, Carter knows firsthand the benefits of a working band with its own sound and repertoire. His quartet is a well-rehearsed ensemble whose strength lies in intuitive listening and unwavering trust.
Throughout the entire disc Carter accompanies with a spirited, infectious sense of play that brings out the very best in his band mates. The ultra-chromatic approach of his bass lines on "Bag's Groove and "Someday My Prince Will Come create just the right amount of tension to prod Scott to venture out on spontaneous excursions without sacrificing an inch of groove.
Intended or not, Carter's bass sound on Dear Miles harkens back to the earlier days of his career. His tone has a deep resonance emphasizing the natural timbre of the instrument in favor of the more amplified, metallic sound of previous recordings. A comparison of Carter's lyrical rendering of "Stella by Starlight from this session with his version from Third Plane (Milestone, 1978) reveals a sound of monumental influence that has come full circle.
Carter contributes two original pieces written in his signature style of syncopated quirkiness with a pleasurable blend of sophistication and humor. The first, "Cut and Paste, is an up-tempo workout with Carter's gargantuan walking lines propelling Scott into a series of blistering eighth-note runs. The other selection, "595, closes the disc with a slick, laid-back groove colored nicely by Squitero's arsenal of auxiliary percussion.
Having recently turned seventy, Carter isn't showing any sign of burnout. In fact, The Ferndale, Michigan native sounds more invigorated than he has in years. With Dear Miles the celebrated veteran proves he still has much to say. The jazz world would be wise to listen.
Track Listing: Gone; Seven Steps to Heaven; My Funny Valentine; Bags' Groove; Someday My Prince Will Come; Cut and Paste; Stella by Starlight; As Time Goes By; Bye Bye Blackbird; 595.
Personnel: Ron Carter: bass; Stephen Scott: piano; Payton Crossley: drums; Roger Squitero: percussion.