A master bassist, Ron Carter is the epitome of grace, elegance and class and one of the greatest rhythmic jazz artists of our time. A sought after musician, he has participated in numerous recording sessions with some of the biggest names in jazz history. Between 1963 and 1968, Carter was a member of the Miles Davis Quintet and continued to make a name for himself throughout the 1970s as leader of his own band, thanks in part to his piccolo double bass. A great teacher, Carter has transmitted his own knowledge through his writings and his lectures at high profile learning establishments. His influence on younger generations of musicians is unprecedented.
Ronald Levin Carter was born in Ferndale, Michigan, in 1937 and studied music from a very young age, like his seven brothers and sisters, trying his hand at different instruments before settling on the cello at the age of 10. After a family move to Detroit, the young man attended Cass Technical High School and later earned a diploma from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, where he played with the school's philharmonic orchestra.
He later moved to New York City to attend the Manhattan School of Music. Between classes, the young musician played with the Chico Hamilton quintet, alongside multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy, who later performed with Carter on the 1961 album Where?.
Two years later, Carter joined the Miles Davis Quintet, along with pianist Herbie Hancock and drummer Tony Williams, and remained there until 1968. This prestigious job allowed him to perfect his skills and reputation, and made him a high demand artist for recording sessions. As a result, Carter started collaborating with a wealth of artists, including some of the biggest names in the music industry. Throughout his career, Carter is said to have participated in over 1 000 recording sessions - a number some sources claim to be even double.
After parting ways with Davis, Carter took advantage of this artistic freedom and kept on pursuing various collaborations, all the while playing with the New York Jazz Quartet and the New York Jazz Sextet. The album Uptown Conversation (1969), his first major solo effort in eight years, featured all original compositions.
During the 1970s, Carter formed various groups and usually included two bassists, allowing him to take the solo lead with his piccolo bass.
In 1976, he participated in Herbie Hancock's supergroup project VSOP (Very Special Onetime Performance) during the Newport Jazz Festival. The project was also reprised in 1983, which brought Carter to perform for the first time at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal that same year.
Carter came back to the Festival in 1986 as part of another project led by Hancock, and again in 1987 with guitarist Jim Hall. Carter received his first accolade from the Festival in 1994, as a main guest for its prestigious Invitation series. There, he performed five consecutive nights, with a four-cello nonet performance for the serie's last show.
With a wealth of albums to choose from in a discography that spans decades, a few stand out from the 1990s and up, namely Brandenburg Concerto (1995), an album entirely devoted to the work of Bach and Carter's third classical album for Blue Note, as well as Orfeu (1999), a Brazilian music album with his sextet, including saxophonist Houston Person. In 2008, Carter tapped into familiar sounds again with Jazz and Bossa and, in 2006, delivered a poignant but low-key tribute to his mentor with Dear Miles.
In the late 1980s, Carter took up compositions of scores and incidental music for films. He won a Grammy in 1987 for his instrumental track Call Sheet Blues, featured in Bertrand Tavernier's movie ‘Round Midnight. This was Carter's second partnership with Tavernier, having composed the soundtrack to his movie La passion Béatrice the year before.
Ron Carter authored numerous educational books, namely Building Jazz Bass Lines and Comprehensive Bass Method, and over the years has transmitted his knowledge through lectures at various vocational schools. After almost 20 years on the faculty of the Music Department of The City College of New York, he was named Distinguished Professor Emeritus.
In 2012, he returned to the Festival with guitarist Russell Malone and pianist Donald Vega, and was presented with the Miles Davis Award.