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Ron Carter's expansive interests long have included investigations into the nature of Latin music, and then the recording of his own interpretations of it. Fusing his legendary experience as a bassist extraordinaire with the rhythmic displacements and variety of Latin music, Carter's seeming ease and his statesman-like approach to the instrument have made the music accessible without sacrificing its complexity or inspirational value .
Carter's interest in Latin music regained recorded fulfillment recently with his CD of Brazilian music, Orfeu, which featured an eloquent Houston Person and a subdued Bill Frisell. Carter has enlarged his palette on When Skies Are Grey by encompassing Latin music from more countries, most especially Cuba. In addition, Carter has composed four of the seven tunes for this album, presenting his interpretation of the music as well as allowing himself to stretch out for graceful ever-present bass lines that animate the recordings as well as root them.
His regular group rejoining him for When Skies Are Grey, Carter's stylistic choices, arranged by Bob Freedman, remain quietly intense without ostentation or varieties in tempo. The group seemed to have chosen a tempo and a style for the album and stayed with them. Carter remains fixed as the creative center while Scott, Mason and Kroon maturely and subtly work as a unit for the adaptations of the tunes. Scott in particular seems to be restraining himself to remain consistent with the tone of the recording, softly filling in chords behind Carter or breaking out into unhurried solos. This style is quite a bit different from some of the work he has done with Roy Hargrove, Christian McBride, Sonny Rollins or Joe Henderson, thus showcasing his unselfish adaptability.
Carter is resilient as well, to say the least. Deciding not to break a studio date, When Skies Are Grey was recorded the day after Carter and his two sons attended their wife and mother's funeral. Thus, the figurative skies indeed were grey that day, and Carter's group offered heartfelt emotional support through the recording process.
Ever the consummate professional, Carter develops "Mi Tempo" with his universally admired artistry and maturity as Scott lays out for a final tune showcasing Carter's creativity and command of the bass. On Ray Bryant's "Cubano Chant," Carter trades fours with Scott, even as he continues to anchor the quartet, never failing with his ever-present pulse. Sometimes a minimalist approach prevails, as it does on "Que Pasa," Scott developing a slow and subtle introduction that leads into a confident vamp over which deliberate single-noted soloing emerges.
When Skies Are Grey delivers yet another recording that highlights Carter's insights into Latin music. On another level it bespeaks the capacity of music for healing.
Track Listing: Loose Change, Besame Mucho, Caminando, Que Pasa, Corcovado, Cubano Chant, Mi Tempo
Personnel: Ron Carter, bass; Stephen Scott, piano; Harvey Mason, drums; Steve Kroon, percussion
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.