A bona fide jazz legend is celebrated with an all-star documentary soundtrack vinyl soundtrack.
Ron Carter – Finding The Right Notes – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – In + Out Records IOR LP 77151-1 180-gram stereo double vinyl, 86:00 ****1/2:
(Ron Carter – double bass; Russell Malone – guitar; Donald Vega – piano; Stanley Clarke – bass; Bill Frisell – guitar; Jon Batiste – piano; Christian McBride – double bass; Renee Rosnes – piano; Jimmy Green – tenor saxophone; Payton Crossley – drums. And the WDR Big Band)
Double bassist Ron Carter has played on an astonishing 2,500 + recordings, more than any other bassist, past or present. His first ascent to jazz fame was as a member of the Second Miles Davis Quintet (with Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams and Wayne Shorter). It is impossible to quantify his impact on jazz. His relevance is ongoing, including sitting in with Grateful Dead icon, Bob Weir. This year, an incisive documentary about Carter was produced on PBS. Finding The Right Notes took 6 years to complete. Director Peter Schnall traces Carter’s remarkable career from his early days as a 10-year-old cello student to his vital contributions to modern jazz. A variety of performers offer insight into their admiration for Carter.
There is a companion soundtrack to the movie. This double vinyl (also available on CD) is comprised of various collaborations (from the last 8 years) with other jazz artists. What is evident from this diverse collection is the versatility and inherent appreciation for musical chemistry that has defined his legacy over 60 years. Side A opens up with a brassy swinging number “Receipt, Please”, courtesy of WDR Big Band. It is a multi-layered arrangement with hard bop resonance, featuring two trumpet solos. The band acts as a counterpoint and Carter’s double bass is centered and not lost in the mix. “Soft Winds” is another high-octane performance, this time in a trio (Russell Malone/guitar; Donald Vega/piano). Malone injects bluesy grooves with Carter maintaining rhythm. There is a catchy tempo break mid-tune, which feels like wild ragtime. Carter teams up with fellow bass prodigy, Stanley Clarke on “Bags Groove”. The Latin-infused jam manages a full sound with Malone on guitar.
Christian McBride joins in for a master class bass-only cover of “Willow Weep For Me”. Both utilize their bass as lead instruments, with reverberating notation, polyrhythmic counterpoint and a jazzy tempo change. In quartet mode (Renee Rosnes/piano; Jimmy Greene/tenor saxophone; Payton Crossley/drums), Miles Davis’ “Flamenco Sketches” is infused with exotic motifs and rhythm. There is an achingly beautiful piano interlude before an upbeat transition with bop-like flourishes. Carter and WDR Big Band return for a hypnotic, complex jam, “Doom Mood”. Approximating a deliberate, almost foreboding Ellington-esque resonance, there is a slow piano vamp, atmospheric guitar and big band shading (including a bass clarinet and horn/reed chorus). Carter’s double bass solo is compelling. Carter is very comfortable with intimate expression. “Gershwin’s immortal “My Man’s Gone Now” (Side C) is rendered on duet with guitarist Bill Frisell. They both distill the winsome melancholy with understated elegance. Small touches like chord modulation and timing flexibility make this pairing stellar. Their organic feel for each other is uncanny. Malone and Vega reprise on “A Nice Song”. With an ethereal classical intro and Vega handling the lead, Carter and Malone are perfect complementary band mates. Carter’s double bass is prominently featured and it flows gently. There is a stunning duet with emerging superstar Jon Baiste (who has a substantial role in the documentary) on “Sweet Lorraine”. The New Orleans pianist brings lyrical finesse and bouncy aesthetics. Carter’s notation is precise and facilitates the song’s development.
A soundtrack of a jazz icon deserves a big finish, and Side D answers the call. “Blues For D.P.” intermingles large ensemble swagger with “down ’n’ dirty” blues themes. This arrangement is meticulous with bristling solos on saxophone and trombone, and a concise double bass run. A bonus track (“Nearly”) displays late night, finger-snapping coolness with muscular instrumentation. Carter’s repeated exchanges with the saxophone are engaging. Again, this retrospective consists of relatively new performances and showcases a jazz artist whose contributions are topical and creative.
Finding The Right Notes is a great jazz album. The sound mix (Temple Studio) is excellent (Note: A pair of good stereo headphones would be a great way to asses the quality of the recording). Hi-gloss gatefold packaging and protective inner sleeves make this a superior release.
Side A: Receipt, Please; Soft Winds; Bag’s Groove
Side B: Willow Weep For Me; Flamenco Sketches; Doom Mood
Side C: My Man’s Gone Now; A Nice Song; Sweet Lorraine
Side D: Blues For D.P.;
Bonus Track: Nearly.
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