Ron Carter – All Blues – CTI 6037 (1974)/Pure Pleasure (2016) stereo vinyl, 36:01, ****1/2:

An audiophile vinyl re-mastering of a jazz legend sounds great!

Ron Carter – doublebass, piccolo bass; Joe Henderson – tenor saxophone; Roland Hanna – piano; Richard Tee – electric piano on “117 Special”; Billy Cobham – drums, percussion)

There aren’t many jazz bassists who are regarded as jazz icons. Ron Carter is certainly at the head of this group. As a sideman, he played with Eric Dolphy, Cannonball Adderly, Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk and was part of the second Miles Davis Quintet. Carter has scored many films, and taught jazz composition. His approach to interval jazz composition has drawn comparison to Duke Ellington. More importantly, he has been recording for over fifty years, enhancing his substantial influence in the jazz community. Among the many contributions was All Blues, released on the CTI label in 1974. Recorded over one session in late 1973, this album is widely considered to be among the greatest of all time.

Pure Pleasure Records has released a 180-gram vinyl re-mastering of All Blues. With a quartet featuring Carter (double bass), Joe Henderson (tenor saxophone), Roland Hanna (piano) and Billy Cobham (drums/percussion), six tracks of superb jazz are brought to life by masterful engineer Rudy Van Gelder. The title may say it’s a blues-based jazz recording, but the diversity of Carter’s musicianship and band arrangements is evident. Side A opens with a swaggering (and more traditional) opus, “A Feeling”. Joe Henderson’s muscular tenor asserts the lead, with Carter matching him forcefully on double bass. He expands the instrument beyond rhythmic counterpoint and provided structure to the quartet. He and Cobham interact with flawless chemistry. Pianist Roland Hanna is featured on the gossamer ballad, “Light Blue”. The ethereal piano intro leads into an embrace by Cobham on cymbals and Carter’s   inimitable notation. His note-bending or slides are noteworthy. “117 Special” probably approximates  blues more attentively. The soulful, vampy groove is a great platform for Henderson’s subtle vibrato-laced lines. It has a seventies flair with the addition of electric piano (Richard Tee) and the fading repeat chorus. Carter executes a nimble guitar solo.

Side B is compelling for the variety of genres. “Rufus” kicks off with a crisply syncopated unison with Carter and Henderson. As Hanna joins in, the song transitions to a medium swing mode. Carter displays a deft touch on an extended solo. As the tenor returns, the jazzier shadings caress the melody. Cobham is able to negotiate the complicated, shifting rhythm patterns with finesse. Taking on Miles Davis is never easy, but the quartet excels on the title cut. The bassist handles lead on the first verse. There are not many players who can translate the double bass to lead play, but Carter is adept at this. Henderson picks up the second verse and solos with verve. Carter manages to track both rhythm lines and melody with equal grace and precision. The song remains faithful to the “cool jazz” time signatures of the original and adds understated rhythmic upticks. The finale (“Will You Still Be Mine”) is a lyrical solo performance by Carter. It is an appropriate conclusion to a fine album by a mesmerizing instrumentalist.

The 180-gram re-mastering is excellent. The original engineering by Van Gelder mixes bass levels to elevate the instruments from the rhythm section. The tone is crystalline and avoids unnecessary volume gimmickry with organic aesthetics. The tenor saxophone is sharp and mellifluous. The details (like cymbals) are prominent and refined. The glossy album gatefold is top-notch.


Side 1: A Feeling; Light Blue; 117 Special

Side 2: Rufus; All Blues; Will You Still Be Mine

—Robbie Gerson