Towering over the bandstand, but relegated to the back, oftentimes in the shadows. Only a timekeeper, a rhythm man, a sidekick to the spotlight artist? Think again.
Architect of the highest order on the bass. Impromptu composer extraordinaire even when he’s not soloing. Pliable but powerful. The shepherd. The instigator. The catalyst. The shaper. The finest walker in the history of jazz. Risk-taker with an elegant streak, always. Refined. NEA Jazz Master. The hero.
Those are all assessments by a variety of colleagues and friends when they reflect on Ron Carter.
“Ron’s historical footprint is massive,” says fellow bassist John Patitucci, “The historical statements he’s made over the decades is phenomenal.” He also recognizes that Ron’s mystique and business-minded approach to jazz is renowned. “I’ve been fortunate to never be on the wrong side of Ron Carter. He is legendary about holding people accountable. He has very high standards.”
Intimidating. Gruff on the outside—funny, kind and personable to those he trusts and who have been granted the gift of knowing him.
In June 2004, Ron approached me at the Jazz Journalists Association’s Jazz Awards show at B.B. King’s in New York and started a conversation that concluded a couple of months later in me agreeing to write his biography, to chronicle his storied life. Interested? Ron asked. Most certainly, I replied. I’m honored.
Two years later—after hundreds of hours of interviews with Ron, his colleagues, his family—the ramp-up to the final project (Finding the Right Notes---The Ron Carter Story) has begun. After months of conversations and technical support, I’ll be launching my biography with ArtistShare (best known for its concept of selling CDs by musicians on the Internet only, gaining project support from a range of people interested in the final product as well as the creative process involved in bringing a project to completion, and in the end rewarding the artist without siphoning dollars to wholesale and retail intermediaries) at my ArtistShare-powered Web site danouellette.artistshare.com
You’ll see the creative process at work—the stops and starts, the dead ends, the ah-hah! moments—in the writing of the book as well as experience the backdrop of putting such a book together, with exclusive once-a-week journal entries; photo galleries of Ron at home and on the road, in the studio and at rehearsals, onstage and backstage; an exclusive series of excerpts of interviews with Ron, colleagues and family as well as with a roundtable of bassists (William Parker, Larry Grenadier, Scott Coley and Ron) talking about the basics of bass; video excerpts of Ron giving master classes as well as performing; podcasts of defining moments in my quest of writing Ron’s biography.
Each step along the path of researching Ron’s life story opens new portals of possibilities, including 2007’s IAJE DownBeat Blindfold Test Live, featuring Ron in the “seat of heat” as he reflects on a 10-pack of tunes hand-chosen by me; audio sketches of new compositions direct from Ron’s Mac files; a first-hand look of Ron’s teaching prowess as he works in his home studio/office with aspiring bass players seeking his wisdom; exclusive previews of new recordings of his own and those that he guests on; and more.
This project will be unlike any biography ever written, in that it will be a multiplatform endeavor that will fully view and explore the life of the master bassist from many different audio and visual angles in addition to the written word.