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Ron Carter: The Right Notes, Alright

By Published: May 21, 2012
"They got to play," states Carter. "The issue is: Can they find someplace to make some gigs? That's still paramount to me. You got to find somewhere to play, man, to figure out what notes don't work. There was a time you could go from New York to Philadelphia, to Washington, DC, to Boston. Those circuits are gone. I'm concerned the players will not have the wherewithal to be able to make those gigs that are now available. I tell my students I used to play three sets a night and they are stunned by that possibility. But that's how we developed our own sound and our own vocabulary and figured out the best set of these notes to play, or those notes to play. I think they need to get that kind of brass-knuckle playing."

He says his best advice for students is "get on the bandstand and work it out for as long as the club will stay open. You got to get those miles on you, brother. There's not a shortcut for that." Jazz schools are thriving, which is a good thing, but "it's not the same as being in a nightclub being forced to be able to perform to a certain level night in and night out. Schools do what they do and that's not to say they are not productive and turning out some productive players. But they got to be in the pits, man, to find out what it's like to try to make a course and maintain an audience's attention while you're moving up there. It's a whole other mindset. Musicians today miss that pressure to have to deliver night in and night out. You got to do it every night, man, to try to find out what notes don't work. Can you find a better set and maintain the audience's interest in what you're trying to get across to them?"

Carter says the best musicians working today face difficulties. But challenges have to be met head-on. "It's hard for all of us. The industry is changing. The access to the music is changing. The places to play are changing. The internet has changed the way people get a chance to hear music. We're all facing those kinds of difficult times. If you want to survive, they've got to find ways to make it work for them. Look around and don't look for anyone to hand it to you."

Meanwhile, Carter himself continues to look for projects that can stimulate him. He has a working trio and quartet. He still gets called for major sideman gigs.

When he looks for new projects, "I've got to feel good about doing it. Not just because it's a project. One of the reasons I'm as active as I still am is I'm able to find projects that thrill me. So far I'm batting close to major league. I'm always looking for what the next possibilities are. Right now, I'm temporarily stumped. I've covered most of the ground as a leader that I can reasonably cover. I've done duos, solo records with just bass ... I've covered most of the ground I'm interested in now, but I'm always open to suggestions. So if you have any, now is the time to tell me."

Selected Discography

Ron Carter, Ron Carter's Great Big Band (Sunnyside, 2011)

Miles Davis, Miles Davis Quintet: Live in Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Volume 1 (Columbia, 2011)

Ron Carter, Dear Miles (Blue Note, 2007)

Ron Carter, The Golden Striker (Blue Note, 2003)

Ron Carter, Eight Plus (Dreyfuss, 2003)

Ron Carter, When Skies Are Grey (Blue Note, 2001)

Ron Carter, Orfeu (Blue Note, 1999)

Joe Henderson, Tetragon (OJC, 1995)

Jim Hall, Alone Together (Milestone, 1986)

Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner, Ron Carter, Milestone Jazz Stars (Milestone, 1979)

Ron Carter, Piccolo (Milestone, 1977)

Horace Silver, Silver 'N Voices (Blue Note, 1976)

McCoy Tyner, Atlantis (Milestone, 1975)

Ron Carter, All Blues (CTI, 1973)

Roberta Flack, Killing Me Softly (Atlantic, 1973)

Stanley Turrentine, Sugar (CTI, 1970)

Freddie Hubbard, Red Clay (Blue Note, 1970)

Charles Tolliver, Paper Man (Freedom, 1968)

Miles Davis, Miles Smiles (Columbia, 1967)

Ron Carter, Out Front (Prestige, 1966)

Herbie Hancock, Maiden Voyage (Blue Note, 1965)

Miles Davis, ESP (Columbia, 1965)

Wayne Shorter, Speak No Evil (Blue Note, 1965)

Coleman Hawkins, The Hawk Relaxes (Prestige, 1961)

Eric Dolphy, Out There (Prestige, 1960)

Photo Credits

Page 1: Hans Speekenbrink

Page 2: Andrea Palmucci

Page 3: Steven Sussman

Page 4: Michel Verreckt

Page 5: Takehiko Tokiwa

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