Kicking off the summer, everyone has been making a lot of noise honoring legendary bassist Ron Carter, who recently celebrated his eighty-fifth birthday. In the last decade, Carter eclipsed another iconic bassist, Milt Hinton (“The Judge”), as the most-recorded bassist in history. In a career spanning more than sixty years, Carter is credited on more than 2,200 unique recordings as a leader and a sideman – and shows no signs of stopping, having won this year’s Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album for Skyline. With such extensive recording credits, Carter has appeared with virtually every jazz luminary you can think of, from Miles Davis, Chico Hamilton, and Wayne Shorter to Janis Siegel, Grover Washington, Jr., and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. His expansive view of harmony and melodic bass lines revolutionized the role of the bass in jazz music and has influenced legions of musicians from the 1960s to the present day. However, Carter’s unique sound has proved just as influential and has been heard by listeners well beyond the circle of jazz aficionados, as over the years Carter has contributed to iconic records in many other genres.
In the 1960s, Carter made waves as the grounding force of Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet. But in that same decade, Carter laid the foundation for mainstream successes as well, like First Take, the debut album of celebrated soul singer Roberta Flack. Check out Carter’s effortlessly funky bass line on her rendition of “Compared to What.” He also accompanied the revered diva Aretha Franklin on her critically-acclaimed album Soul ’69. These recordings introduced Carter’s sound to new audiences and established the bass template for mainstream recordings in the ensuing decades. For those who were familiar with Carter’s groundbreaking work with Miles Davis, it introduced them to a completely different side of Carter’s incredible musicianship.
Famously, Ron Carter contributed to one of the early icons of hip-hop, The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest. While early hip-hop acts established a paradigm of sampling deep cuts from famed jazz artists, A Tribe Called Quest went a step further. Recognizing how fundamental Ron Carter’s sound was to those swaths of jazz records dredged from the crates, they sought out Carter to record directly on their album. On “Verses from the Abstract,” Ron Carter is even called out by name in the lyrics!
Carter has recorded with countless others, including Jackie and Roy (Time and Love), Phoebe Snow (Second Childhood), Aaron Neville (Nature Boy: The Standards Album), Paul Simon (Paul Simon), Billy Joel (The Bridge), and many more. Of course, anyone who has spent any time listening to jazz music in the last sixty years has undoubtedly heard Ron Carter. Perhaps even more incredible is that anyone who has spent time listening to singer-songwriter acts or the Top 40 of the past several decades has also been attuned to the sound of the great bassist. As the most-recorded bassist in history, you can hear Ron Carter (and his vast influence) each and every day on Jazz 93.5!