10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2011
Ron Carter on bass & cello on this date has a terrific supporting cast: Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet, alto sax & flute, Mal Waldron on piano, George Duvivier on bass and Charles Persip on drums. Although the entire band gets there share of solo time, it's Ron Carter that has most of the spotlight. I previously only knew of Ron Carter in his work with the famous Miles Davis Quintet from 1965-68 where he was the bassist, but what a delight to find him here in 1961 doubling on cello! The melodies here are delightful, and there is quite a variety of instrumentation in each track with Eric Dolphy on three different instruments! As a result we have quite a potpourri of interesting arrangements, my favourite of them track 2, "Bass Duet" which is exactly that-2 great bass players playing their instruments at their gooey best for nearly six minutes. Great listening! A big feature on this recording date is that of Ron Carter playing the cello, either bowed or pizzicato(plucked). His style creates quite a bit of tension in the strings of the cello and what beautiful music flows when you add in the flute, alto sax or bass clarinet from Eric Dolphy & the first rate rhythym section.
This is an unusual style of jazz played brilliantly and I don't think my review really does it justice, so I highly recommend giving this disc a spin!
Enjoy the great music & God bless!
LITTLE, Booker. Out Front. Candid. Orig., 1961; re-released 1989. BL, tpt; Julian Priester, tbn; Eric Dolphy, alto sx, bss clari, flt; Don Friedman, p; Art Davis, Ron Carter, b; Max Roach, dr, tymp, vib.
CARTER, Ron. Where. Prestige. Orig. 1961; re-released 2008. RC, cello, b; Eric Dolphy, alto sx, bss clari, flt; Mal Waldron, p; George Duvivier, b; Charles Persip, dr.
Here are two albums from the start of the 1960s, an exciting period in jazz with new stylists and new styles of jazz appearing after a dynamic but fairly stable decade and a half of bop. Both albums feature players –Dolphy, above all, but also Little and Carter, Max Roach, Priester, Waldron, Friedman—who were stretching boundaries, and in Dolphy’s case, almost breaking them. Carter was 24 then, Little 23 (and dead that October, never to reach 24), Friedman and Priester 26, Dolphy 32 or 33. Waldron, Roach and Persip were in their mid to late thirties and Duvivier was the old man out at 41. The point is: these were young men and for the most part, this is young men’s music. That explains both some of its strengths and some of its weaknesses.
Let me state with the strengths. These are first-rate musicians –in the cases of Dolphy, maybe Little, certainly Roach and Waldron, brilliant improvisers, and Priester and Friedman don’t fall far behind. Persip was a marvelous drummer and, a near miracle for late bop drummers, he could drum as hard using brushes and he could sticks. Duvivier was a rock solid bassist whose presence had graced albums ranging from the traditional to highly avant garde: if it needed playing, Duvivier could play it.
Notice I haven’t mentioned Ron Carter yet. This was Carter’s first recording as leader. He came to it with a solid rep: he’d played in groups led by Jaki Byard and Chico Hamilton and recorded with Dolphy and Don Ellis. Three years later, he would join the second great Miles Davis quintet (1964-68) with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and Tony Williams. There’s no question that Carter is one of the great bassists of the modern era, but in 1961, he was young and it shows on this album. He chose to play cello across most of the album, leaving the responsibility for maintaining a pulse in Duvivier’s capable hands. As a consequence, there is one strong horn voice –Dolphy, whatever instrument he was playing on a particular piece—to take the lead, with a second voice on bowed cello, and piano underlying both. It’s a weak, muddy sound. Most of Carter’s solo passages are bowed, not plucked, and he did not at that point in his career have a strong, clear, confident cello sound, not when he bowed it, nor did he articulate the moves from note to note cleanly, as he does in later recordings. I’m not opposed to the use of bowed cello in jazz –Oscar Pettiford was a master at it (although he tuned his cello to make its sound brighter). I do object to muddiness and I do prefer crisp articulation. On the one piece where Carter plays plucked bass, I like it. Throughout, Dolphy is masterful –he is such a strong, distinctive player on alto sax and bass clarinet that you forget that he was also a powerhouse flutist. Where isn’t a bad album at all but over all, it hasn’t worn well.
Nor has the brilliant trumpeter Booker Little’s debut album as a leader, Out Front. Out Front sounds like a Max Roach album, just with a different front man. All the tunes were composed and arranged by Little. He showed talent as a composer. As to the arrangements, they’re good but generic –horn heavy intros with three-horn harmony, followed by solos. Roach plays tympani as well as drums and of course he’s good --Max Roach was always good- but the tympani don’t fit as well here as they did, for instance, on “Bemsha Swing” on Thelonious Monk’s Brilliant Corners. All of the solos are good, and Dolphy’s and Little’s are gooder. Little had a sweet tone. If he had lived, he might have carved out a synthesis of modernism and lyricism, like an avant garde Clifford Brown. That would have been an interesting contrast to the trumpet playing of New Sound trumpeters like the two Dons, Ayler and Cherry. As it is, we have a handful of albums ranging from good to quite good to remind us of what we lost when Booker Little succumbed to uremic poisoning at the age of twenty-three.
I love this album for a number of reasons, but foremost is the unique configuration of the ensemble. Carter's chops as a bassist were undeniable even as a twenty-four year old, but he had the courage to enlist bassist George Duvivier to join him on three of the tracks, then play cello himself without a bassist on three other tracks. Add in Eric Dolphy's bass clarinet on some of the tracks and you have a musician vision that is not only unique in concept, but also in performance.
The sound samples on this page will convey the essence of this album. Although the music clocks in at a scant 35:48, this album is especially important to musicians - regardless of instrument - who can gain a lot of insights by closely studying the way the ensemble comes together and the structure of Carter's arrangements.
Background: the tracks were recorded at Rudy van Gelder's Englewood Cliffs, NJ studio on June 20, 1961 (less than a month after Carter's twenty-fourth birthday.)
Eric Dolphy plays on either alto, flute or bass clarinet on every track except Where and Bass Duet. Both Carter and Duvivier are paired on bass on Rally, Yes, Indeed
and Bass Duet. On the remaining tracks Carter is on cello with no bass backing. Mal Waldron is on piano and Charli Persip is on drums (Persip is credited as 'Charlie' by which he was known at the time before he changed it to 'Charli' years later.)