February 1998

Ron Carter - Bass & I
Blue Note 7243 8 59698 2 9
Released: 1997

by Jay Piriz

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment *****

[Reviewed on CD]In another review this month, I mention Ron Carter as a guest on the Deodato/Prelude performance that was recorded in 1972. That was a quarter-century ago! This cat, Ron Carter, has been delivering the goods longer than many of you have been alive. (Wish I could say the same for me!) The Bass and I is Carter's most recent effort. It is as fresh, inspired and altogether COOL as anything he may have done in his younger, perhaps hungrier years.

This release includes some original numbers as well as works borrowed from others. Carter is joined by Stephen Scott on piano, Lewis Nash on drums, and Steve Kroon on percussion. There are no other musicians performing; this is the stuff classic jazz-quartet music is made of. Throughout the performance, you can pick up the dynamics between the musicians as they lay it down. The faint scatting of the melodies can be heard as the musicians mouth and hum the notes. As I listened, I got the feeling that they really enjoyed recording this effort.

"The Shadow Of Your Smile" (Webster/Mandell), is beautifully performed by these four master musicians. The tempo is smooth and jazzy with a twist of bossa nova thrown in for good measure. What happens on this track between Carter and Scott from about 4:15 on is worth the entire price of the CD. Similarly, the familiar "My Prince Will Come" (Morey/Churchill) is a breath of fresh air, with Carter throwing in some real bass virtuosity (3:32 in) and a great piano performance by Scott. "Double Bass," an original tune, is a real treat. At about 6:00 Nash does a little snare-drum bit that is not to be outdone by the percussion of Kroon at 7:20. You have to hear it to know what I'm talking about. Quite a musical experience.

This release is consistent with Blue Note's excellent reputation for high-quality recordings. Each instrument is placed on the soundstage with pinpoint accuracy. Clarity and detail are excellent, without a hint of glare or edginess. Carter's bass is articulate, tight and well defined.Cymbals are crisp and alive without harshness. The kick drum is realistically palpable without undue emphasis. The sound is as as natural and acoustically real as a live performance. In my listening room, I felt like I was in the studio with the quartet.

I guess by now you know that I like this CD. Yes, I really like this CD. Ron Carter is a true master of jazz and a virtuoso bass player. Any doubt about this? Just listen to the last two minutes of the last track, "I Remember Clifford." This CD is one of Ron Carter's most inspired works and a joy for any jazz lover.