Online since August 2002

Miles sideman pretty good leader, too

From the Autumn 2003 issue.

The Golden Striker
The Golden Striker
By Ron Carter

Blue Note Records: 2003

To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.

Bassist Ron Carter, with his last three CDs, culminating in the just-released "The Golden Striker," has finally gotten my attention after all these years. He has recorded, as a leader, fifty-plus albums, and he has appeared as a sideman on too many records to count. And I'm finally taking notice.

Not that the bass man is new to me, or to any jazz fan worth his/her salt. He is best known for his stint in the second great Miles Davis Quintet in the early to late sixties – and a quick and not particularly thorough check of my record collection finds him doing the sideman things on nearly thirty discs, beginning with the Miles sets and ending with saxophonist Eric Alexander's "Nightlife in Tokyo" from earlier this year.

But it wasn't until "When Skies are Grey ..." came out in 2000 that I actually sat and listened to one of his leader efforts. It is a deceptive set of tunes, a simple and serene Latin-tinged set, a piano trio with an added percussionist, anchored by Carter's quiet strength on the bass. I initally considered it quite good, but nothing to write home (or a review) about. But that disc has remained, for record time, I might add, on the "current listening shelf", where it – for its quiet, unalloyed, implacable beauty – still resides, when it isn't in the CD player.

"The Golden Striker" has the same pinpoint focus of musical vision and pared-down atmosphere, with its own separate but parallel species of gorgeous sound. This disc is an unusal line-up (a drummerless chamber jazz line-up, one might say) of piano (Mulgrew Miller), guitar (Russell Malone) and Carter's bass.

It is a versatile mix of sounds. Miller and Malone are virtuoso performers on their respective instruments, and fine band leaders in their own rights. Both are supremely confident here on lead or accompanist roles, which they trade througout the set in seamless conversations, each with his own clean and elegant styles, with Miller rising at times into the realm of lush eloquence in front of Malone's piquant notes. And always, Carter is there, that solid, looming, low-end presence, stepping out for the occasional solo with more style and grace than any other bassist out there.

The recording session was, by necessity – these are busy, in-demand guys – a quickly done affair, mostly one-takes; a mode that, in the hands of these seasoned pros, pays off. The sound and mood are vibrant, beautifully fluid, on the John Lewis-penned title tune, a handful of Carter originals, and one song each by Malone and Russell, in addition to classic "Autumn Leaves." And the highlight for this listener is J. Rodrigo's "Concierto De Aranjuez (Adagio Theme)," the best-known version of which can be found on Miles' masterpiece, "Sketches of Spain." This trio effort of the tune is spare, ethereal, enthralling in its three-way conversations laying out the themes.

An engrossing effort, from start to finish, one that puts Ron Carter-led efforts in the "must buy" category.

Review by Dan McClenaghan. Dan is a writer living in Oceanside, Calif. Read his biography on his AllAboutJazz.com page.

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