While a Latin jazz element is his focus for this project, veteran Ron Carter’s recordings always hold the mainstream of jazz in high regard. A quiet session that swings, the bassist’s latest album swirls through the tradition with a light conga tinge. Bob Freedman’s intricate arrangements place the bassist in roles ranging from opening obbligato to soothing melody and focused improvisation. Pianist Stephen Scott brings a fresh approach to the session, particularly on Ray Bryant’s “Cubano Chant,” where he stretches out with a free hand. Bongos and drum set trade fours before Harvey Mason launches an extended solo. The session doesn’t place Mason out front, however, because of the intended quiet mood. Instead, the veteran drummer supports strongly with crisp articulation, light sticking, and swirling brushes.
The Latin element, while not overly applied, colors each arrangement with its rhythmic, dance-like quality. With a clear focus on mainstream jazz, Carter has produced another prize-winning album. His four originals pique the senses in different ways. Carter’s “Caminando” could easily represent the album’s title because of its somber mood and tranquil, quasi-tango transitions. His “Mi Tempo” is a provocative piece without piano. Walking bass alternates with lyrical melodic phrases as Carter nudges a Latin tinge along the way. Drum set and conga fills provide a spicy flavor.
In his interview with All About Jazz last year, Carter said, “...I like to create a rhythm that will make the band take a different direction.” Firmly in control throughout the session, the bassist makes all the right moves. Due out February 13th, When Skies Are Grey..., the bassist tops the new list for best of the year.
Personnel: Ron Carter- bass; Stephen Scott- piano; Harvey Mason- drums; Steve Kroon- percussion.