He is the ultimate gentleman of jazz, and at age 85, Ron Carter, a DC Jazzfest board member, maintains a robust tour schedule. Performing on the double bass, he has appeared on 2,221 recording sessions, making him the most-recorded jazz bassist in history. The DC Jazzfest audience was abuzz before Carter entered the staging area. He came in looking dapper in a straw hat, white linen jacket, a Winchester checked shirt with a white collar and an orange tie. It was the level of cool we needed on a hot and humid afternoon.
Carter, also an exceptional cellist, first came to great prominence as a member of Miles Davis’ famed mid-sixties “second great quintet”. In addition to trumpeter Miles Davis, the group consisted of drummer the late Tony Williams, pianist/composer Herbie Hancock and saxophonist Wayne Shorter.
A1998 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Master Carter’s trio included pianist Donald Vega and guitarist Russell Malone. Their set list included “Cedar Tree,” dedicated to the late jazz pianist Cedar Walton, along with several standards that included “Soft Winds” and “Autumn Leaves.” It was Carter’s introduction of another standard that made the audience chuckle.
“Here’s a version of one of my favorites, “My Funny Valentine,” for you ladies out there who wanted something nice and quiet,” Carter said who takes a minimalist approach to smoothness.
“Isn’t that the most ‘old school thing,” said Tenley DC resident Holly Meyers, who was seated next to me. “Such a gentleman.”
The performance satisfied our cravings from the much-heralded Carter and his tight trio, but we all could have enjoyed more. As the group left the stage, I was close enough where he shared his thoughts on the instruments. Not what I was seeking, but “beggars can’t be choosey.”
“I felt relieved that the piano was physically a good piano,” Carter said, explaining how the sound is not necessarily the best for outdoor concerts. “Tonight, I’m in charge of a great custom piano.”
He was speaking about the Shadd piano from Warren Shadd, the first African American piano manufacturer based in DC. I also learned that Carter played a borrowed bass on Saturday. Having seen photos of him performing with a dark cherrywood bass, I was eager to see that dark-colored bass. It did not matter. The evening and my brief chat were a day to remember.
Keep up with Ron Carter on his website https://roncarterjazz.com
Brenda C. Siler on Twitter and Instagram: @bcscomm