Ron Carter

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Ron Carter
Carter performing at Berkeley Jazz Festival in May 1980
Carter performing at Berkeley Jazz Festival in May 1980
Background information
Birth nameRonald Levin Carter
Born (1937-05-04) May 4, 1937 (age 87)
Ferndale, Michigan, U.S.
  • Musician
  • educator
Years active1959–present
Formerly of

Ronald Levin Carter (born May 4, 1937)[1] is an American jazz double bassist. His appearances on 2,221 recording sessions make him the most-recorded jazz bassist in history.[2] He has won three Grammy Awards,[3] and is also a cellist who has recorded numerous times on that instrument.[4] In addition to a solo career of more than 60 years, Carter is well-known for playing on numerous iconic Blue Note albums in the 1960s, as well as being the anchor of trumpeter Miles Davis's "Second Great Quintet" from 1963-1968.[5]

Beginning with Where? in 1961, Carter's studio albums as leader also include Uptown Conversation (1969), Blues Farm (1973), All Blues (1973), Spanish Blue (1974), Anything Goes (1975), Yellow & Green (1976), Pastels (1976), Piccolo (1977), Third Plane (1977), Peg Leg (1978), A Song for You (1978), Etudes (1982), The Golden Striker (2003), Dear Miles (2006), and Ron Carter's Great Big Band (2011).

Early life[edit]

Carter was born in Ferndale, Michigan.[1] At the age of 10, he started playing the cello, switching to bass while at Cass Technical High School.[4] He earned a B.A. in music from the Eastman School of Music (1959) and a master's degree in music from the Manhattan School of Music (1961).[1]

Carter's first jobs as a jazz musician were playing bass with Chico Hamilton in 1959, followed by freelance work with Jaki Byard, Cannonball Adderley, Randy Weston, Bobby Timmons, and Thelonious Monk.[1] One of his first recorded appearances was on Hamilton alumnus Eric Dolphy's Out There, recorded on August 15, 1960, and featuring George Duvivier on bass, Roy Haynes on drums, and Carter on cello. The album's advanced harmonies and concepts were in step with the third stream movement.[6] In early October 1960, Carter recorded How Time Passes with Don Ellis, and on June 20, 1961, he recorded Where?, his first album as a leader, featuring Dolphy on alto sax, flute, and bass clarinet; Mal Waldron on piano; Charlie Persip on drums; and Duvivier playing basslines on tracks where Carter played cello.



Carter was a member of the second Miles Davis Quintet in the mid 1960s, which also included Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and drummer Tony Williams.[7] Carter joined Davis's group in 1963, appearing on the album Seven Steps to Heaven,[7] and the follow-up E.S.P., the latter being the first album to feature only the full quintet. It also featured three of Carter's compositions (the only time he contributed compositions to Davis's group). He stayed with Davis until 1968[7] (when he was replaced by Dave Holland), and participated in a couple of studio sessions with Davis in 1969 and 1970. Although he played electric bass occasionally during this era of early jazz-rock fusion, he has subsequently stopped playing that instrument, and in the 2000s plays only double bass.

Carter also performed on some of Hancock, Williams and Shorter's recordings during the 1960s for Blue Note.[7] He was a sideman on many Blue Note recordings of the era, playing with Sam Rivers, Freddie Hubbard, Duke Pearson, Lee Morgan, McCoy Tyner, Andrew Hill, Horace Silver, and others. He also played on soul-pop star Roberta Flack's album First Take and Gil Scott Heron's Pieces of a Man, including the iconic bass-line on "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised".[8]

After leaving Davis, Carter was for several years a mainstay of CTI Records, making albums under his own name and also appearing on many of the label's records with a diverse range of other musicians. Notable musical partnerships in the 1970s and 1980s included Joe Henderson, Houston Person, Hank Jones, Gabor Szabo and Cedar Walton. During the 1970s he was a member of the New York Jazz Quartet.[9] In 1986, Carter played double bass on "Big Man on Mulberry Street" on Billy Joel's album The Bridge.[10]


Carter performing at the European Jazz Expò 2007

In 1987, Carter won a Grammy for "an instrumental composition for the film" Round Midnight.[3] In 1994, he won another Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Group for a tribute album to Miles Davis.[11] He appears on the alternative hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest's influential album The Low End Theory on a track called "Verses from the Abstract".[12] He appeared as a member of the jazz combo the Classical Jazz Quartet.[13] In 1994, Carter appeared on the Red Hot Organization's compilation album, Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool.[14] The album, meant to raise awareness and funds in support of the AIDS epidemic in relation to the African-American community, was heralded as "Album of the Year" by TIME.[15] In 2001, Carter collaborated with Black Star and John Patton to record "Money Jungle" for the Red Hot Organization's compilation album, Red Hot + Indigo, a tribute to Duke Ellington.[16]

Carter is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the music department of City College of New York, having taught there for 20 years,[17] and received an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of Music in spring 2005.[18] He joined the faculty of the Juilliard School in New York City in 2008, teaching bass in the school's Jazz Studies program.[19] Carter made an appearance in Robert Altman's 1996 film, Kansas City, at the center of which is a jazz club called the Hey Hey Club.[20] The film's end credits feature Carter and fellow bassist Christian McBride duetting on "Solitude"[21] at the club, owned by a black gangster called Seldom Seen, who was played by a "show-stealing" Harry Belafonte.[22] (In a 2023 tribute, Carter would reveal how it came about that Belafonte had been his landlord.[23])

Carter sits on the advisory committee of the board of directors of The Jazz Foundation of America and on the Honorary Founder's Committee.[24] Carter has worked with the Jazz Foundation since its inception to save the homes and the lives of America's elderly jazz and blues musicians including musicians that survived Hurricane Katrina.[25]

Carter appeared as himself in an episode of the HBO series Treme entitled "What Is New Orleans".[12] His authorized biography, Ron Carter: Finding the Right Notes (ISBN 978-0989982511), by Dan Ouellette, was published by ArtistShare in 2008.[26]

2010s and later[edit]

In 2010, Carter was honored with France's premier cultural award, the medallion and title of Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.[27] Carter was elected to the DownBeat Jazz Hall of Fame in 2012.[28]

In August 2021, Carter was the featured guest in a 47-minute video interview with YouTuber and musician Rick Beato.[29][30] In November 2021, the Japanese government honored Carter with The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette. Japanese officials credited Carter with helping to popularize jazz in Japan and facilitating cultural exchange.[31] In April 2022 Carter sat in with Bob Weir at Radio City Music Hall.[32] In May 2022, Carter celebrated his birthday by releasing a Tiny Desk Concert recorded at the Blue Note Jazz Club featuring Russell Malone and Donald Vega.[33]

Carter continues to record as a sideman, most recently appearing on Daniele Cordisco's 2023 album "Bitter Head."[34]

Carter at George Wein's CareFusion Jazz Festival 2009, Newport, Rhode Island

Documentary films[edit]

Ron Carter: Finding the Right Notes is a documentary film about Carter's career,[35] produced and directed by Peter Schnall.[36] It was released in November of 2022 on PBS.




  1. ^ a b c d Feather, Leonard; Gitler, Ira (1999). "Carter, Ron (Ronald Levin)". The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 115.
  2. ^ Rachel Swatman (January 7, 2016). "Ron Carter earns world record as the most recorded jazz bassist in history". Guinness Book of World Records. Retrieved August 2, 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Ron Carter". November 19, 2019. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Wynn, Ron. "Ron Carter Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved October 26, 2020.
  5. ^ "A tribute from the anchor". Los Angeles Times. August 11, 2007. Retrieved April 23, 2024.
  6. ^ Marsh, Peter (2002). "Eric Dolphy Out There Review". Retrieved June 26, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Jazz (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 78. ISBN 0-85112-580-8.
  8. ^ Stryker, Mark (August 27, 2016). "Famed jazz bassist Ron Carter picks 10 faves from his 2,200 recordings". Detroit Free Press. Archived from the original on October 26, 2017. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
  9. ^ "New York Jazz Quartet | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved July 25, 2021.
  10. ^ "The Bridge - Billy Joel | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved July 25, 2021.
  11. ^ "37th Annual GRAMMY Awards". November 28, 2017. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  12. ^ a b "Ron Carter and the Low End Theory". KQED. June 4, 2014. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  13. ^ "The Classical Jazz Quartet Catalog". Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  14. ^ Kohlhaase, Bill (December 16, 1994). "ALBUM REVIEW : VARIOUS ARTISTS, "Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool" ( GRP ) ***". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  15. ^ "The Best Music of 1994". Time. December 26, 1994. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  16. ^ "Red Hot | Red Hot + Indigo". Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  17. ^ "Jazz Studies at City College". Jazz at City History. Retrieved May 26, 2020.
  18. ^ "Honorary Degree Recipients | Berklee College of Music". Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  19. ^ "Ron Carter". The Juilliard School. December 24, 2010. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  20. ^ Travers, Peter (August 16, 1996). "Kansas City". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 21, 2024.
  21. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan (May 7, 1998). "Let the Music Do the Talking". Chicago Reader. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  22. ^ Kempley, Rita (August 16, 1996). "'Kansas City': All Over the Map". Washington Post.
  23. ^ "Ron Carter - Tribute to Harry Belafonte". July 28, 2023 – via YouTube.
  24. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 13, 2011. Retrieved October 13, 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  25. ^ Pt. 2 Jazz Angels Jazz Foundation of America's Wendy Oxenhorn on HammondCast KYOURADIO.
  26. ^ Schu, John (September 18, 2020). "Ron Carter: Finding the Right Notes by Dan Ouellette". JazzTimes. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  27. ^ "Ron Carter Receives Recognition from French Government". February 17, 2010. Retrieved July 21, 2017.
  28. ^ "DownBeat Announces 2012 Readers Poll Results". October 29, 2012. Archived from the original on December 9, 2012. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  29. ^ Beato, Rick (August 4, 2021). "The Ron Carter Interview". YouTube. Retrieved October 14, 2021.
  30. ^ "Ron Carter with Rick Beato". Jazz on the Tube. September 11, 2021. Retrieved October 14, 2021.
  31. ^ "Conferment of Decorations for 2021 Autumn". Consulate General of Japan in New York (in Japanese). Retrieved December 16, 2021.
  32. ^ Chiu, David (April 4, 2022). "Bob Weir And Wolf Bros Deliver An 'Ace' Performance At NYC's Radio City Music Hall". Forbes. Retrieved April 14, 2022.
  33. ^ "Ron Carter: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert". YouTube. May 4, 2022. Retrieved May 5, 2022.
  34. ^ "Daniele Cordisco, Ron Carter – Bitter Head". Discogs. Retrieved March 30, 2024.
  35. ^ "Ron Carter: Finding the Right Notes". Thhirteen.
  36. ^ Patterson, Demetrius (October 22, 2022). "Jazz Legend Ron Carter Reflects on His Relentless Musical Quest in Docu 'Finding the Right Notes'". Variety. Retrieved November 22, 2023.
  37. ^ "Ron Carter DVD | Art Farmer DVD | Cedar Walton DVD | Billy Higgins DVD". Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  38. ^ "Herbie Hancock DVD | Herbie Hancock Concert Video". Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  39. ^ "Ron Carter: Finding the Right Notes". Retrieved October 21, 2022.

External links[edit]