Ron Carter is an innovator in jazz style – as he puts it, “A good bassist determines the direction of any band.” Often, he uses gonglike tones and glissandos in his work. Once his exclusive trademark, these sounds have now become part of every modern bassist’s vocabulary. He was among the few bassists who continued to play acoustic bass when many turned to electric bass. “It was a conscious choice,” he said. “I felt a responsibility to present a viable alternative to the popular electric sound.”
He began his career in the early 1960s, honing his signature style of harmonic and rhythmic bass lines that are rich in detail, pure in sound and technically impressive.
He won a Grammy Award in 1988 for the instrumental composition, Call Sheet Blues, from the film ‘Round Midnight. He scored and arranged music for a number of other films including The Passion of Beatrice, Haraka, Exit Ten and A Gathering of Old Men. His solo bass recording of the Bach Cello Suites on compact disc was certified Gold in 1988.
Mr. Carter has lectured, conducted and performed at clinics and master classes, instructing jazz ensembles and teaching the business of music at numerous colleges. He was Artistic Director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Studies while it was located in Boston and, after 18 years on the faculty of the Music Department of The City College of New York, he is now Distinguished Professor Emeritus.
“Education has always served to increase my awareness,” said Carter. “Teaching helps me better understand what it is that I do. The students walk away with the history of string bass; they become more cognizant of jazz history. Also, their questions – about jazz publishing, copyright laws, and recording contracts – are answered firsthand.”
Mr. Carter’s many awards include being named Most Valuable Player, Acoustic Bass, by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences as well as citations by the Jaoan All-Star Jazz Poll and the Swing Journal Readers Poll. He was voted Outstanding Bassist of the Decade by the Detroit News and Jazz Bassist of the Year by Downbeat magazine.
He has recorded with many of the greatest names in music: Oliver Nelson, Tommy Flanagan, Gil Scott-Heron, Gil Evans, Lena Horn, James Brown, Coleman Hawkins, Bill Evans, Carlos Santana, Aretha Franklin, Sonny Rollins, Paul Simon, Janis Ian, Bette Midler, Benny Goodman, George Benson, B.B. King, Eric Gale, Johnny Hodges, Antonio Carlos Jobim, The Kronos Quartet, Dexter Gordon, Helen Merrill, J.J. Johnson, Benny Golson, Sir Roland Hanna, Stan Getz, and Jessye Norman.
Mr. Carter is the author of Building Jazz Bass Lines, a series of books on playing jazz; a Comprehensive Bass Method, for classical bass studies; Ron Carter, Bass Lines; and The Music of Ron Carter, which contains 130 of his published and recorded compositions.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in music from the Eastman School of Music and a master’s degree in double bass from the Manhattan School of Music. He has received two honorary doctorates, from the New England Conservatory of Music and the Manhattan School of Music.