Going back to the fall of 2016 and Ron Carter's appearance at the Detroit Jazz Festival as artist-in-residence, the buzz was that a biographical film on the man named the most recorded bassist in history was in the pipeline. During that festival, a film crew was seen regularly following Carter around Hart Plaza and the bassist even spent one full day conducting interviews with a plethora of jazz journalists. Fast forward to October of 2022 and director Peter Schnall's final cut would debut as a prime-time presentation for PBS.
Ron Carter: Finding the Right Notes currently boasts a rating of 7.9 out of 10 on the website IMDb, with many touting the great performances featured in the film but also questioning the roster of cameos featured therein. Fortunately, the soundtrack stands firmly on its own as a document of Carter's artistry recorded across the globe between 2014 and 2021. For the 2-LP version reviewed here, there are ten tracks, plus one additional title that is only available on vinyl.
A rare setting for Carter until just recently, the bassist is heard with the WDR Big Band on three tracks that just may be the pick of the litter. "Receipt, Please" kicks off the album with a trumpet-led melody that is one of the bassist's most familiar, the stop-time sections offering a strong backup for Carter's solo statement. Settling in for an agreeable romp, "Blues for D.P." provides fodder for a string of inspired soloists. By contrast, "Doom Mood" is a tone poem that might sound familiar as it was first recorded simply as "Mood" by Miles Davis back in 1965.
With his Golden Striker Trio featuring guitarist Russell Malone and pianist Donald Vega, Carter can be heard on "Soft Winds" and "A Nice Song," both prime examples of how much swing can be generated even without a drummer. An extra listen is recommended for checking out the way Malone and Vega complement each other while never getting in each other's way.
Duo performances are also in the offing as Christian McBride swings through "Willow Weep for Me" with the maestro at The Harlem Jazz Museum in 2019. Another live cut finds bassist Stanley Clarke joining Carter for the very first time as the duo takes on the iconic "Bag's Groove." Captured at the Blue Note in 2017 on the occasion of Carter's 80th birthday, Bill Frisell enters the fold for a sublime take on "My Man's Gone Now," a real sleeper that makes one wish that more of this particular duo was offered here and in the film.
Carter's quartet is captured in Stockholm in the fall of 2018. Pianist Renee Rosnes, tenor saxophonist Jimmy Greene, and drummer Payton Crossley make for a simpatico ensemble that often puts the spotlight on Greene's muscular voice. Miles Davis' "Flamenco Sketches" is a vital update of the original that seamlessly morphs into the previously mentioned "Doom Mood." Furthermore, the vinyl edition includes "Nearly," a reflective Carter original that concludes on a tranquil note, Mr. Carter's bass walking off into the proverbial sunset.
For this vinyl edition, two perfectly flat discs are housed in a glossy gatefold jacket that features many photos, as well as quotes from Carter and reflections on the film project from the director. The sound was dynamic and full and levels were surprisingly even, owing to the fact that these performances were culled from numerous sources. As previously stated, this collection stands well on its own and is an up-to-the-minute look at Carter's recent musical endeavors.
Receipt Please; Soft Winds; Flamenco Sketches; Bags Groove; Willow Weep For Me; Blues For D.P.; Doom Mood; My Man’s Gone Now; A Nice Song; Sweet Lorraine.
WDR Big Band (1, 6, 7); Russell Malone: guitar (2, 4, 9); Donald Vega: piano (2, 9); Renee Rosnes: piano (3); Jimmy Greene: tenor saxophone (3); Payton Crossley: drums (3); Stanley Clarke: bass (4); Christian McBride: bass (5); Bill Frisell: guitar (8); Jon Batiste: piano (10).
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