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Ron Carter: When Skies Are Grey

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The album cover for Ron Carter's When Skies Are Grey shows the jazz bassist contemplatively looking up toward an overcast New York City sky.

Perhaps the title is in reference to how Carter felt during the recording sessions because his wife had died the week before. He attended funeral services over that weekend and came to the studio the following Monday morning.

But when you listen to the music that came from those sessions, you'll hear the consummate bassist implementing his amazing skills on seven Latin-tinged tunes. Perhaps the exquisite melodies lifted Carter's spirits.

Joining Carter on When Skies Are Grey are Stephen Scott on piano, Harvey Mason on drums and Steve Kroon on percussion.

Carter and arranger Bob Freedman have dipped into the Latin genre, using the straight 4/4 beat and auxiliary percussion, while seamlessly placing the syncopated elements of jazz into the songs.

The way Carter solos on Consuelo Velazquez's "Besame Mucho," it's as if he's mimicking a trumpet or saxophone. You wouldn't expect a bassist to play fast sixteenth notes, but what else would you expect from the man who helped keep the pulse for Miles Davis' 1960s quintet.

With the opening track, Carter's "Loose Change," the quartet jumps from a straight Latin 4/4 to a swing rhythm, then back to the Latin pattern before switching gears yet again to cut-time swing. Carter, Mason and Kroon never lose the beat, while Scott effortlessly tickles the ivories.

On Ray Bryant's "Cubano Chant," the group starts off in a medium-fast Latin feel, occasionally breaking into 7/4. Suddenly, the mood switches to swing, with Carter playing a walking bass line. They then return to the Latin beat, with Mason and Kroon having a drumming duel.

Carter's "Mi Tiempo" also features smooth transitions in unexpected places, this time going from Latin to swing to cut-time swing and back to Latin.

Scott is absent from the song, so Carter takes over the melody post, leaving Mason and Kroon to solo around the bass.

In all, When Skies Are Grey is an impressive, unique mixture of two electrifying genres from one of jazz's most prolific bassists.

Track Listing: Loose Change, Besame Mucho, Caminando, Que Pasa, Corcovado, Cubano Chant, Mi Tiempo.

Personnel: Ron Carter: bass; Stephen Scott: piano; Harvey Mason: drums; Steve Kroon: percussion.

Title: When Skies Are Grey | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

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