Ron Carter: New York Reunion, The Next Level & Just Between Friends
Houston Person with Ron Carter
Just past the threshold of his seventh decade, Ron Carter is an iconic bassist whose prolific heartbeat has stirred the lifeblood of jazz for nearly 50 years. Whether he's playing with fellow legends or lending credibility to a burgeoning young lion, his distinctive style and tone has been the underpinning for the 1000+ recordings on which he has appeared.
A trio of releases exemplifies his sophistication and sense of humor. He's part of a dream quartet on McCoy Tyner's outstanding New York Reunion, a 1991 session with tenor titan Joe Henderson and drummer Al Foster. Carter didn't attain his stature by relying on ostinatos; his simple opening figure on "Recorda Me," complete with a playful glissando, gives Tyner and Henderson harmonic and rhythmic challenges off which to work, as does the double-time rubato during his solo. The generous spacing of Carter's "A Quick Sketch" gives Tyner and Henderson ample room for exposition but the last two minutes of the tune belong to its composer, who cleverly stretches out the four-note vamp through the end. Another characteristic of Carter's playing is the way he hints at various standards without quoting them directly. For example, his solos from "My Romance" and "Beautiful Love" contain elements from "Surrey with the Fringe on Top" and "Old Folks" respectively. Like a gardener using a seedling to grow another plant, Carter samples the DNA of jazz to enhance his music.
In contrast to his work on New York Reunion, Carter's playing is comparatively muted on young tenor Ignaz DinnÃ©'s The Next Level, steeped in the blues and the classical stylings upon which his technique and solo structures are based. DinnÃ©'s ballad "Think Again" includes vintage Carter, his pizzicato complementing feathery tenor and drummer Jochen Rueckert's whispering brushes perfectly. His rubato pushes Pete Rende's excellent piano on "Pete's Place" and his bass on "Ask Me Now" bursts with octaves and doubling of notes. Throughout The Next Level Carter thrives on manipulating the tempos and key signatures, strumming the strings and doubling the chords. DinnÃ© blows with perfect solemnity on Ellington's "Come Sunday," with Carter's masterful pizzicato and Rende's pump organ underscoring the excellent arrangement. But throughout it seems that Carter is holding back, as if he didn't want to overshadow his young charge.
Like DinnÃ©, Houston Person plays sax with a tone whose smoothness and flawlessness complements Carter perfectly and their seamless interplay on Just Between Friends comes with familiarity and experience. Carter takes pleasantly meandering paths during his solos, enjoying the freedom that playing with a vet like Person affords. He plucks like a background singer supplying a countermelody, or uses a humorous four-note 'Old West' figure to introduce the lighthearted "Blueberry Hill." The two giants raise the ante on "Darn That Dream," Person starting off with his usual smooth voice but pushing it octaves higher when bringing the song home and Carter's accompanying octaves and glissandi right on the mark. Carter's provides the samba rhythm on Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Meditation," with Person's playing recalling that of Stan Getz. The bassist's virtuosity is at its finest on the dreamy "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" and "Alone Together" in the way that he totally explores every aspect of the plasticity of the melodies. Ron Carter gives any collaboration a deeper dimension because he comps and solos with wit, facility and imagination, splashing colors on the canvas that enliven the whole picture.
Tracks and Personnel
New York Reunion
Tracks: Recorda Me (Remember Me); Miss Bea; What Is This Thing Called Love?; My Romance; Ask Me Now; Beautiful Love; A Quick Sketch; Home.
Personnel: McCoy Tyner: piano; Joe Henderson: tenor saxophone; Ron Carter: bass; Al Foster: drums.
The Next Level
Tracks: The Next Level; Think Again; Three's A Crowd; Pete's Place; Ask Me Now; I'll Be Seeing You; Pannonica; The Twisting Path; Come Sunday.
Personnel: Player Name: Ignaz DinnÃ©: alto saxophone; Ron Carter: bass; Pete Rende: piano, pump organ; Jochen Rueckert: drums.
Just Between Friends
Tracks: How Deep Is the Ocean; You've Changed; Blueberry Hill; Darn That Dream; Meditation; Lover Man; Lover Come Back To Me; Polka Dots and Moonbeams; Always Alone Together.
Personnel: Houston Person: tenor saxophone; Ron Carter: bass.