Ron Carter: Stardust (2002)
Quick and to the Point: Oscar Pettiford would’ve loved itï
The New Oscar Pettiford Sextet, a 1953 Leonard Feather production, featured Pettiford’s “Tamalpais Love Song.” Ron Carter –his own man when incorporating varying nuances of equal multiplicity of origins to his work– proves a manly man at the outset of Stardust. In “Tamalpais,” we find the first of three reinterpretations of Pettiford’s compositions. This interpretation is relaxed and mature with loads of class, elegance, insinuated exotic appeal and assurance. Benny Golson’s midrange prowess delivers bopish ideas with flourish and cleverness resembling a dirty Martini sound that gels fantastically well with the sonic identity of the album. Joe Locke’s vibraphone playing adds a collegial touch reminiscing Terry Gibbs’ role in the original Pettiford date that saw the light of this excellent piece of writing by the late bassist honored herein. Sir Roland Hanna does his number too, while an air of exotica permeates the swing and rhythmic drive of the tune.
The transition from “Tamalpais” to Gershwin’s “The Man I Love” –a mid-tempo-solidly-melodically-aural-drink that goes down with punchy ease– is right on the money, setting a deciding tone throughout the remaining flow of the recording. Carter has a more prominent role here than in the opener, although Golson wins you over oozing satisfying flurries with great comping in the piano and the unobtrusive march provided by Lenny White in the drums. Carter’s solo takes over the tune at mid passage and you are immediately reminded that there is clear evidence of a good sense of humor in his virtuosi playing, as well as Golson’s.
As the most extensive tune, Carter’s bluesy “Nearly” sets Locke loose over the steady deliciously sweet support of his peer’s in the rhythm section opening up for Golson’s takeover. Both are in great shape as the first half of the tune belongs to them. Hanna then walks the beat over the keys with aplomb and swiftness, allowing his right hand to do some serious talking, while quite a bit of meaning is issued on the left. The tune’s amicable head is restated during its closing to a caressing vanishing effect.
Another one of the three Pettiford cuts comes fore in “Bohemia After Dark” and a cheerful note is struck. Carter takes a cascading descending solo of solid import on this retake of this '50s tune incorporating multiple fingered passages of special interest. Golson drives up the tempo afterwards saying much with apparent ease. White makes his strong contribution redirecting the tune into other corners, as Golson beckons back to the top.
“Tail Feathers” is a Carter dusted-off tune with steady swing and some playful melodic riffs. Golson initiates the ruffling with Locke following in step and the author’s composer comes through with yet another solo with quite a particular sense of strength and melodic reasoning.
The last Pettiford composition is “Blues in the Closet.” Little is needed to raise Hanna up with his energetic and swinging issuing that brings Carter’s jamming playing to the fore with cost-cutting measures that bankroll punchy musical wealth. Near the coda, White and Carter share a brief time together that hinted at unexplored fascinating opportunities.
“That’s Deep” sticks to swing structures favoring Locke’s superb stick vibe rolling explorations. The piano follows through with equal vibe and fervor pushing the bass’ envelope further into a percussive transition at the hands of White and Carter that proves deep enough to ford with caution, although eliciting curiosity and expectation.
The title cut, also recorded by Pettiford, closes the date with just Carter and Hanna. The melodic charge given by Carter renders this classic in yet another light worth looking at. All that ends wellï
See also: Jim Santella’s review .
Track Listing: 1. Tamalpais 2. The Man I Love 3. Nearly 4. Bohemia After Dark 5. Tail Feathers 6. Blues in the Closet 7. That?s Deep 8. Stardust
Personnel: Bass: Ron Carter. Drums: Lenny White. Piano: Sir Roland Hanna. Tenor Saxophone: Benny Golson. Vibraphone: Joe Locke.