A new two-hour documentary on PBS, the U.S. public television network, shines a spotlight on preeminent jazz bassist Ron Carter.
Ron Carter: Finding the Right Note is a deep dive into the artistry and wisdom acquired over the lifetime of Mr. Carter, who holds the Guinness Book world record for most-recorded jazz bass player in history.
We are treated to many passages of Mr. Carter in various recording sessions, rehearsals, and, as has become more prevalent in recent years, livestream performances on the internet. Many would largely agree that Mr. Carter is the primary force that brought the upright bass formerly the background into the foreground of jazz.
And at one point, he says that for bass players: “The sound is everything we have. You have to find out what sound you want to be represented by. I happen to have that . . . When people hear this note, or these notes, the first thing comes to mind is [that these are] my sound, my notes, my bass. I’m on this record.”
Astute viewers will likely pick up on a central theme of Ron Carter’s artistic temperament: his relentless quiet pursuit of creating excellence with each opportunity. Beyond merely an affirmation, you can see it exuding from his very being and behavior. Woven throughout the program are numerous interviews with jazz journalists and critics, and fellow musicians who worked with Mr. Carter, or who have admired him as a peer to be reckoned with.
Mark Ruffin, the program director for Sirius XM’s Real Jazz, says flat out: “If you go back in
jazz history, eventually you are going to get to Ron Carter.”
Another prominent voice is ICAP co-president Herbie Hancock, who, along with fellow co-president, Wayne Shorter, were together with Mr. Carter in the mid-1960s in the second Miles Davis Quintet.
In a poignant sequence, we witness Mr. Carter dealing with the painful experience of the sudden death from illness of his son Myles – a noted painter and graffiti artist. Mr. Carter continues along with stoic grace, not missing a beat in fulfilling his career obligations. We see him tell a colleague that he is certain Myles would “not let him not do this.”
Mr. Hancock relates a most encouraging view of Mr. Carter in light of his personal sorrow by
expressing a profound philosophical take. He says that this current life can be considered just a chapter in the eternality of life, and though it will be natural to deeply miss someone, Ron is the type of person who will continue to use his life for something; to make it a life of giving.
Perhaps the perfect expression of the theme of Mr. Carter’s lifelong pursuit of excellence can be found in his own words that appeared onscreen at the start of the film:
“I’m trying to find out what the top of the mountain looks like, and the only way to get there is by playing every night like it’s my last chance to get this right.”
You can view Ron Carter: Finding the Right Note through November 18, 2022, by clicking here.