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Ron Carter on The Role of the Bassist, Performing and Miles Davis

Ron Carter

Bass legend Ron Carter‘s list of credits and musical accomplishments are among the most impressive – if not the most impressive – among bassists in music history. His appearances on more than 2,500 albums make him one of the most-recorded bassists in jazz history, joining the ranks of Milt Hinton, Ray Brown and Leroy Vinnegar.

Carter is nearing his 75th birthday (in May), and he’s still going strong.

In a recent interview by Owen Mcnally of The Hartford Courant, Carter shared a lot about his storied career, including his five-year run with Miles Davis. But it his answers to the bass-related questions that caught our attention the most.

In answering a question about what he hopes his legacy to be, Carter said “that whoever I played with felt that, as a bassist, I tried to make them sound better.” Carter said that’s how he views his accompaniment, and that he’d want to have “He Was a Nice Man and He Helped Us Play Better” engraved on his tombstone.

In the post-9/11 world of air travel, Carter has had to deal with a lot of hassle in getting his bass from point A to point B. So much so, that he often has to rely on what he calls “the bass du jour” – the double bass selected for him, sometimes by people who don’t even know what a double bass is. This would be stressful for just about any musician, but Carter takes a more positive and constructive viewpoint.

“If I’m fortunate and they have an instrument that’s acceptable, it’s then my job to make it sound like mine within 20 minutes. My view is that people are expecting me… to sound like he does on his records… So I don’t have time to piss and moan about how sad the bass is…”

On the subject of the legendary Miles Davis Quintet of the 1960’s, Carter shared stories about Miles as a leader, and said he never witnessed the negative things others have shared about Miles during that time.

When asked who he wishes he could have played with (perhaps a shorter list than the one of people he has played with), Carter said “probably Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker.”

The interview is well worth the read. Check it out on Hartford Courant’s website.