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Dave Carpenter Remembered

Randall Robinson BY

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Woody's band was the best, musically, because of the history that was in his repertoire, while Buddy was more like a life education, I got so much confidence working with him.
—Dave Carpenter

A Passing Glance

Last week, jazz lost a gentleman and journeyman artist valued for his dependability, versatility and swing. One of the west coast's finest session bassists, Dave Carpenter died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 48.

After studying music at Ohio State University, he launched his professional career playing with three giants of jazz: Buddy Rich, Maynard Ferguson and Woody Herman. Most recently, Carpenter had been in drummer Peter Erskine's trio, which also included pianist Alan Pasqua. A veteran of the Woody Herman and Bill Holman big bands, he also worked with Bill Perkins, Jack Nimitz, Herb Geller, Herbie Hancock, Jack Sheldon, Al Jarreau, Bill Cunliffe, Jan Lundgren, Terry Gibbs, Buddy DeFranco and Richard Stoltzman, to name a few.

In as great demand in Los Angeles studios as he was in clubs, Carpenter has a list of recording credits as long as both of your arms. He performed on over two hundred recordings, and had dozens of television, film theme and soundtracks to his recording credit.

Soundtracks like on the films Sideways, Ocean's Eleven, When Do We Eat?, Charlie Bartlett, 50 First Dates, Wild Things 2, Hotel, Casualties and Tom Hanks' That Thing You Do! as well as the Original Broadway Cast recording of Cabaret.

Carpenter is no stranger to the recording studio, a first call bassist on hundreds of albums. He also worked as assistant sound engineer on several albums as well. He appeared as a soloist with the Los Angeles and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras plus Tanglewood and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestras. Carpenter was a founding member of the "Lounge Art Ensemble" along with Bob Sheppard and Peter Erskine.

New York Times Review

Lenox, MA (2006) the Classical and the Vernacular, were a cohesive choice at the Festival of Contemporary Music, Tanglewood Music Center's annual showcase. Maestro Asbury was on the podium for Turnage's festival-closing, "Blood on the Floor," which mixed into the large, percussion-heavy orchestra was a jazz band that included Martin Robertson, the saxophonist; John Parricelli, the guitarist; Dave Carpenter, the bassist and Peter Erskine, the drummer.

In the best jazz tradition, these musicians all took solos, sometimes augmented by orchestral brass and percussionists. The music's roots ran everywhere, from the Copland of "Quiet City" to Frank Zappa's off-kilter zaniness. By turns rambunctious and soulful, this nine-movement suite is raucous and heartfelt. It was far and away the wildest piece of music heard here this week, leaving a listener with the sense that it should have been the festival's starting point, not its final word.

Tuesday June 24th, 2008

The news of Carpenter's passing traveled quickly through Hollywood, with shock, having just ended a three day recording session with Simon Phillips (drummer, producer) and Peter Erskine Monday, the day before his death.

Michael Stephans: Carp was one of those rare guys who could fit perfectly into any musical situation, whether it was in the studio or in a club. He always found a way to make the music his own. The last time I played with him was on a trio gig with the great guitarist Ron Anthony, which would never would've been as musical as it was without his presence. It was clear that Carp loved to play, and his spirit was contagious. I feel fortunate to have played with him and will miss his contributions to the music.

John Beasley: I was close to Dave, played and traveled with him on everything from hardcore jazz to jingles to ambient funk. Dave was one of the smartest men I've ever known. He had a seductive argument, a razor wit and a knack for turning the most bizarre conspiracy theory into plain vanilla fact! Musically, he made us all sound better. He was the "Magic Johnson" of music. Any music. I loved him, and will dearly miss him. Thanks for writing about our friend.

Harvey Mason: Dave recorded with me on two of my most memorable projects, Trios 1 & 2. He was my favorite acoustic bassist in L.A. and traveled with me on several occasions. He will be sorely missed as he was truly a musical giant. He was also extremely intelligent, well read and could converse on any subject. I really enjoyed our political discussions. He was also fond of art which he often shared with me as we traveled. I can't believe he left so early—may he rest in peace.

Denise Donatelli: Dave was my first call bassist... as a matter of fact, I was just about to call him with some dates when I received the dreaded call about his death. I'm a jazz vocalist in the L.A. area. Dave was a solid bassist who could play everything magnificently. He was a supportive, kind, gentle and beautiful man and the jazz community has suffered a major loss.

Over the past year or more, he found a new passion in art and became a knowledgeable collector. I will forever regret not taking him up on his offer to take me antiquing at his usual haunts, thrift shops and yard sales... not because of the missed opportunity to find a treasure but because of the missed opportunity to hang with the "treasure."

Jo-Ann and Charlie O: Just wanted to give you our remembrances of Dave. Whenever he played at Charlie O's, Dave would comment "I just love playing here, it's like coming home." Also, when we would hire Dave for a gig, all of the other musicians in the group for that performance would comment how great it was to have Dave on the gig with them because he was such an accomplished player.

He was very humble about his abilities as well. Dave had been performing here quite a bit on weekends, subbing for John Heard and quickly became a favorite with the customers and staff. Dave also performed here on other nights with Jack Sheldon, Doug Webb, and many others. Everyone loved Dave and he will be missed a great deal.

Bennie Maupin: Dave was one of the most talented musicians I've had the pleasure of working with. A quartet put together by drummer Harvey Mason featured Dave, John Beasley and myself. We played two incredible nights in London at the Jazz Cafe and one outstanding concert at the North Sea Festival. Every step of the way, Dave's bass playing captured everybody. On and off the stage. A totally musical experience that will live in my heart forever. He was a musical giant.

Jack Sheldon: Dave worked a lot in my quartet. He was a very upbeat character, a great bassist. Very modern, he played great changes, great solos. He was a pleasure to work with. Dave was a real comedy guy too—he had a great sense of humor. A great dancer and a fun dresser. I'll miss having him in the band. I will miss him.

Dick McGarvin: You're right about there not being much info out there on Dave Carpenter—I don't recall ever even seeing an article about him in the print magazines. Surprising, considering his credits and the fact that he's been one of the busiest, most in-demand bass players of the past three decades. Maybe it's because it hasn't all been jazz. If you haven't already, check his recording credits at Remarkable. From Woody Herman to Harvey Mason, Terry Gibbs to Julie Kelly, Herb Geller to Bill Cunliffe, it was amazing how often Dave's name would appear as a sideman on the recordings I played on the radio. He was a wonderful player. What a loss.

Alex Iles: Carp was very special in so many ways. He was a very special player. He seemed to be every drummer's favorite bassist... Vinnie C., Peter E., Alex Acuna, Buddy Rich, on and on. He was such a great listener. He complemented every musical situation he was ever a part of.

I first met Carp when we both joined Maynard's band on tour in 1986. He had just gotten off of Buddy's band, Buddy really loved Carp. Carp always said it was easy to play with Buddy if you never took your eye off his ride cymbal!!

One of my fondest memories of Carp was listening to him, drummer Dave Miller (who is also no longer with us!), Rick Margitza and/or Tim Ries playing tunes before our soundchecks. Usually just a trio setting. Just incredible... never a wasted note.

Dave was also a special human. He treated everyone and every situation very fairly. He had wide tastes in music and more recently art. He had become quite a successful self-educated art collector. He had begun to amass quite a collection in the last couple of years. He was one of those guys who could pick through an estate or garage sale and walk away with something EXTREMELY rare.

He did not tolerate BS of any kind. With selfless determination, he would aggressively "go to the mat" for the whole band if the bosses were not taking care of biz. There is a story about him doing just that on that movie, Sideways. The way I heard the story, there was some tune they wanted to record for like the umpteenth time and Carp said something to the effect of... "No ****'ing way. We're done with this one." He put music first... always.

Tonight, I feel fortunate that Carp had played the last gig Bill Reichenbach and I did with our quintet a couple months ago. He really pulled the band in all kinds of directions that night. He had a unique assortment of talents you can't even really describe in words. Things that went WAY beyond chops or skill or even musicality itself. But you knew what these things were when you played with him.

He was also capable of forming some of the most melodic solos I have ever heard—on any instrument.

We all really miss him. It's all anyone has been talking about the last couple days at rehearsals and gigs around town. Great Carp stories will no doubt be floating around over the next few days/weeks. If you are not familiar with this guy, do yourself a favor and check out anything Carp ever recorded with Alan Pasqua and Peter Erskine. Always breathtaking.

Alan Pasqua: Rarely in life, we have the privilege of creating music with another who sees as we do, hears as we do, thinks as we do. Words at this point become unnecessary. Dave was one of those guys. His contribution to the trio was immeasurable, and he will always be my first baseman. We will read a great deal about what a great musician Dave was. I also want to say that as great as an artist that Dave was, he was an even better human being and friend. He was extraordinarily smart and articulate, and he was a gentle guy. He was always so sweet to my daughter Greta, and he made a lasting impression on her. Kids don't lie. We all miss and love you, Dave.

Peter Erskine: Dave left his home town of Dayton, Ohio in 1983 to tour with the Buddy Rich band, and then worked with major artists including Maynard Ferguson, Woody Herman, Mike Stern, Allan Holdsworth, Sadao Watanabe, Alan Pasqua, Herbie Hancock, Al Jarreau, David Sanborn, Celine Dion, Michel Legrand, Barry Manilow, Toots Thielemans, Ringo Starr, Brian Wilson, Lalo Schifrin, Michael McDonald, Hubert Laws and Clare Fischer.

Peter Erskine on playing in the pocket: Dave always WATCHED the drummer, something he learned to do while playing with Buddy Rich. It proved to be a wonderful way of playing in the rhythm section, especially in the piano trio when we would tackle really slow tempos. We could "open" up a bar by playing the next bar's downbeat on the "phat" or late side, and Dave would always be right there.

Dave was simply one of those bass players who made the drummer sound better, and made the whole band feel better. He had the ears, the hands, the touch, the experience, hours, wisdom and the soul. Dave Carpenter understood what it was to be a bassist, all the while being able to comp and play melodies while walking on the electric 6-string. Unbelievable. No else like him, he was a one-in-a-million musician.

Carp was hailed by listeners and critics alike for his playing on both acoustic and electric basses. He was not only a bassist's bassist, but a pianist's bassist, a drummer's bassist. Dave Carpenter was a BAND's bassist supreme. He made any piece of music sound and feel better by his incredible musicianship, uncompromising beat and unerring ability to choose the right note at the right time. His musical presence will be sorely missed by all who knew and heard him.

Dave Carpenter: November 4, 1959 ~ June 24, 2008

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