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Ron Carter's Great Big Band

4.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 13, 2011
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Editorial Reviews

Throughout his illustrious career, the legendary Ron Carter has played it all jumping in headlong as an integral member of Miles Davis s classic 60s quintet, anchoring the groove for almost every CTI Records session in the 70s, then launching into multifarious new projects, including his cello-infused, chamber-jazz nonet and his piano-guitar-bass trio. But in his lifelong calling to find the right notes, Carter had never recorded a big-band album. So, the time was ripe for the 73-year-old maestro of the upright bass to break new ground. The result is the delightful and swinging album Ron Carter s Great Big Band, set into motion by esteemed arranger Bob Freedman and Somerled Charitable Foundation trustee Wendy Macdonald (who serves as producer) and featuring an all-star cast of supporting musicians.

Carter says the big-band album was more accidental than intentional. Having done every conceivable recording under my name, the only project I hadn t done was leading a big band. Wendy likes the way Bob writes and asked him to do a project featuring his arrangements. Once he agreed, he asked me to be a part of it. I figured, hey, I ll give it a shot. Recalling Carter signing on to the venture, Freedman says, Ron was up to it and into it. He was eager in his own reserved way.

As it turns out, Carter and co. provided the endeavor with an absolute commitment to musical sublimity. The 17-piece band, with the bassist serving as the rhythmic rudder with his steady, warm-toned pulse and Freedman leading as the conductor, delivers a vibrant outing of 13 tunes that buoy with a spirited freedom. The music exudes refined elegance and sonic power as well as opens a window onto a new approach to big-band performance. Ron took on the role of bass player/leader as though he d been doing it forever, says Freedman, who over the years has written arrangements of songs for many of Carter s recordings.

Assembling the band for this date was a joint effort by Carter and Freedman. The bassist insisted on using two of his frequent rhythm mates, pianist Mulgrew Miller and drummer Lewis Nash.

As for the horn sections, Carter suggested designating section leaders who would then fill in the rest of the musicians needed for the section. For woodwinds, alto and soprano saxophonist Jerry Dodgion was enlisted. He, in turn, called on Steve Wilson for second alto, Wayne Escoffery and Scott Robinson on tenor saxophones, Jay Brandford on baritone saxophone and English horn player Charles Pillow. Trombonist Jason Jackson filled the four- bone section with Steve Davis, James Burton III and Douglas Purviance, and trumpeter Tony Kadleck manned his section with fellow trumpeters Greg Gisbert, Jon Owens and Alex Norris.

The creation of the songbook for the band was another joint effort, with Freedman and Carter bringing to the table music that the latter says would be what people who like big bands would like to hear.

Ron Carter s Great Big Band opens with an upbeat, swinging take on the Duke Ellington s classic Caravan, with later renderings of Dizzy Gillespie s Con Alma treated to an apropos Latin hue, and W.C. Handy s Saint Louis Blues, for which Freedman wrote sections with different musical colorings all to playful effect.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 13, 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sunnyside Records
  • ASIN: B005DZMPVY
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #227,057 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. D. Traiger on September 21, 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
After the third time I listened to Ron Carter's "Great Big Band" CD, I finally decided to write these comments. The selection of tunes represents a good variety of styles: swing, blues, bop, and others that may surprise someone expecting the tradition "big band" sound. For me, the highlights include interesting versions of "Caravan," "Sweet Emma," "Footprints," and (my favorite) "The Golden Striker." The entire collection has a dual feel: the force and crispness of a stage band with the personal closeness and improvisational artistry of a jazz combo, while both supported by Ron Carter's reliable bass. At times, the band gets a bit brass-heavy, but it is able to back off with some memorable solo contrasts. The band also provides a few innovations to the big band sound: swinging the rhythm outside the conventional 4/4 arrangement, using an English horn and a flugelhorn in melody lines, creating a nonet effect from a piccolo bass, and combining brassy baroque-like passages with jazzy reeds. The result is a significantly different sound than one would expect from a collection of "big band" tunes, but one shouldn't be surprised as Ron Carter with his music director Robert Freedman has masterly pulled this off with flare and sparkle. The sound quality of this CD is excellent; the dynamics between the full ensemble and small group improvisations are very well balanced, the riffs and bridges are crisp and clear, and the soloists are never overwhelmed by the back-up fill-ins. I'm also glad to see that the tenor sax section includes Scott Robinson.
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There are several recent really good recordings for Big Band fans like Straight Ahead by the Gran Canarias Big Band, Maiden Voyage Suite by the Westchester Jazz Orchestra, and for salsa fans El Legado by the Mayaguez Big Band.

This recording is also excellent and characterized by vibrant and very original arrangements. The music can be very brassy and powerful, but all of a sudden sound like an intimate jazz trio as in Pork Chop. Really enjoyed the contagious and happy swinging in Opus One, and Sweet Emma brings a joyous chorus from the brass section. As could be expected there are a number of excellent bass solos. Bass and drums solos start the Golden Striker before the entire band slowly comes in and the fades to go back to the bass and drums. The sound is excellent, enjoy full blast and bring down a couple of walls or with nice headphones.
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I like a tight swinging band and this Band was about 90% there. I do not know if it was intentional or not but they just seemed to miss certain opportunities! It is a better than average CD.
If you listen to Sammy Nestico Big band you would really appreciate what this could have been with these charts!
Jim Paxton
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