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Ron Carter: Super Sideman


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Attila Zoller/Ron Carter/Joe Chambers
Common Cause

Sadao Watanabe with the Great Jazz Trio
I'm Old Fashioned
Test of Time

Ron Carter has long been one of the most in-demand bassists, a talented player in both jazz and classical music. He has appeared on hundreds of recording sessions during the last five decades, in addition to his extensive discography as a leader. Among recent reissues are two sideman dates that were recorded during the '70s for overseas labels.

The Hungarian-born guitarist Attila Zoller was a favorite of his fellow jazz instrumentalists, though he was not recorded nearly enough during his long career (he died in 1998) and most of his albums were made for European labels with limited distribution in the US. Common Cause was the first of seven recordings he made for Enja between 1979 and 1995, featuring Ron Carter and drummer Joe Chambers interpreting five of the leader's originals, plus one song written by tenor saxophonist Bobby Jones. Previously reissued on CD with two guitar solos from a different date, this edition drops the bonus tracks and alters the cover art, though the glorious 24-bit sound is an improvement. The lack of liner notes is a trademark of Enja, which prefers to let the musicians speak for themselves, though a few of the song titles are a bit cryptic.

"Kaybe" is a perfect example of Zoller's intricate style, a snappy blues built upon a catchy hook, buoyed by Carter's walking bass. Zoller is a bit subdued as he introduces his infectious bossa nova "Csardanova," though he quickly takes charge, with Chambers' brushwork and Carter's inventive, spacious bass line in support. Although the title track is a ballad, its unpredictable theme keeps the listener guessing while "Meet" sounds as if it was improvised during the session. Bobby Jones, who played with Charles Mingus before dying prematurely in 1980, penned the lush ballad "Lady Love"; Zoller's simmering interpretation makes one want to investigate more of Jones' compositions. Zoller's music remains elusive in the US, but this rewarding date is well worth hearing.

Alto saxophonist Sadao Watanabe has delved into both bop and more commercial jazz settings during his long career but I'm Old Fashioned, a 1976 session, is a pure straight-ahead affair. He could hardly have asked for a better rhythm section in the Great Jazz Trio, with pianist Hank Jones, Carter and drummer Tony Williams.

Everyone comes out on fire to open the session with an explosive take of "Confirmation," though the track is a bit over-modulated with the drums too prominent. The tempo chosen for the title track is almost ridiculous, yet the musicians sizzle, even as some of the same sound problems are present. Better is Watanabe's wistful ballad "Gary," which may have been written in memory of Gary McFarland (who was mysteriously poisoned in a bar in 1971), with whom the saxophonist had worked. Both Watanabe and Jones shine in their emotional solos while Carter's judicious bass line allows the music to breathe and Williams' brushwork also helps to set the mood. Also included is a pair of Billy Strayhorn compositions, a suitably gorgeous setting of the well-known "Chelsea Bridge" and a swaggering take of his relatively obscure "3:10 Blues." Watanabe switches to flute for his tense "Episode," which sounds as if it was written as a possible television theme, though it is a bit too complex to succeed in that medium. The leader's lovely "One For C" served as the theme for a Japanese drama though but here is a solo feature for Hank Jones. This is a fine date, even with the audio problems on the up-tempo tracks.

Tracks and Personnel

Common Cause

Tracks: Kaybee; Csardanova; A

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