This interview originally ran in the August 2006 issue of State of Mind
All I can hope for in presenting the following conversation is this: if you are unfamiliar with the music Ron Carter has made‚ then I encourage you to let your curiosity run wild-research and discover his work‚ listen to the records‚ hear the history. If you like what you hear then tell your friends. He's the bassist on some of the best music that I've ever heard.
When I saw that guitarist Bill Frisell was releasing an album with Ron Carter and Paul Motian on Nonesuch Records‚ respectfully titled Bill Frisell‚ Ron Carter‚ Paul Motian‚ I figured this was as good a time as any to request an interview. For Frisell‚ making this album was a dream come true. His admiration for Ron goes so deep that he wrote a tune for him‚ "Ron Carter‚" on his 2001 release‚ Blues Dream. The bass line only has two notes‚ because sometimes for a musician like Carter it only takes two notes to tell a story. As a listener‚ it only takes one note to know who's playing.
I've been listening to this new album with Bill Frisell and Paul Motian. What's your recollection of that session?
Well‚ I haven't heard the CD‚ so I'm not sure what's on it. We recorded a lot of music that day‚ so I'm not sure what they decided to issue. But we had fun. Well‚ what I would prefer to do is play those songs with those guys live in the club so I can see how they feel about it. But that wasn't the case. We had a good time.
What I heard from Bill is that the session was very loose‚ so the voices of the three of you could really come out.
I'm not sure how he defines loose. I mean‚ as a group we're pretty form-oriented people and pretty constructionist‚ I might say. So I think with "loose" people might get the wrong impression of how disciplined the music is and how disciplined we are.
Right. Well‚ I think more in terms of not rehearsing as much and just leaving the compositions open.
That was clearly the case. No rehearsals at all.
[laughing] It has that feel. Of course‚ it sounds really open. The chemistry comes across and the three distinct voices are really prevalent.
OK‚ that's important.
And there's a lot of patience demonstrated. I remember Bill saying as he's gotten older and played more and more‚ he's gotten slower and slower. He's talking about saying a lot‚ but using less to say it. I feel that really comes across on this album. Do you feel a similar way with your playing?
It depends on the kind of group you're playing with and what kind of music they're playing. I mean‚ certain bands just demand more than others just because of the makeup of the instrumentation. I found that I'm able to pick my spots better‚ but I wouldn't say I'm playing less as I've gotten older. I'm not playing fewer notes as my age increases.
[laughs] Maybe smarter notes?
I'm always looking for those‚ man.
Right. It's interesting because on your last album as a leader‚ The Golden Striker‚ there's no drummer. So‚ obviously that's a different angle.
Well‚ you know‚ with the right personnel‚ drums really aren't critical to make the music work. And with Russell Malone and Mulgrew Miller we could have gotten to where we got to without drums just as quickly as if we had drums. But Bill [Frisell] is working in town next week at The Vanguard with no bass [Frisell‚ Motian‚ and Joe Lovano]. I'm not sure I like that. I'm not sure I see the logic in that‚ without the bass player. I'm going out there to see him and see if I'm wrong or not.
Yeah‚ that's interesting.
Plenty of other bands have done this. This is not the first time. But I just want to go down there and see how they're able to…uh…how do I say this…that the audience feels they don't miss the bass. I can't believe they don't miss the bass player‚ man. I'm going to see how they solve the problem.
Well‚ what's your take on an organ?
Well‚ you know‚ I think if a bass player played the kind of lines that organ players played it probably would never work. Organ players play terrible bass lines. It works because it's an organ. You know‚ you got the sound at the bottom of the chord and there's vamping on it. It fills the bill. I'm not sure it's all OK. I think that organ players don't play the best bass lines‚ but there's some semblance of a bass as a part of the sound of the group.