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Ron Carter - Is he playing acoustic or electric bass on this?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by gflat, Mar 27, 2015.


  1. gflat

    gflat

    Jan 10, 2009
    Back in 2009 I started a thread asking if McCartney sounded like he was playing acoustic or electric bass on a particular song. Today, I have the same question but the bass player is Ron Carter. The song is called "Beautiful Woman" from the 1969 album Coryell, by Larry Coryell. All it says in the liner notes is "bass." For as long as I've been listening to it on YouTube I always thought it was an acoustic bass. But suddenly it's sounding much more electric to me. Ron Carter did used to play some electric. I remember he did on some of the early seventies CTI recordings.

    Anyway, I'm a guitarist, not a bass player, so maybe some bass players can tell me if it sounds like RC is playing acoustic or electric on this. Link below.

    Thanks.

     
  2. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    Electric. Obvious tonal clues aside there is none of his signature vibrato or any slides you'd hear if it were the double bass.
     
  3. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Another clue, that Ron Carter is playing "electric", is that it is in tune.
    (Yeah, I Said It!)
    Thanks.
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2015
    CProvatas, lcdck, 20db pad and 6 others like this.
  4. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    LOL! For once in my life I was polite and said "signature vibrato" but I was thinking what you just said.
     
  5. gflat

    gflat

    Jan 10, 2009
    Thanks. It's funny how I heard it as double bass for so long, and then suddenly heard it differently. The obvious tonal clues weren't so obvious to me, but I did begin to hear the general lack of a double bass quality. Also, like you said, a complete lack of fretless slides. In fact, now I can hear the frets in his hand movements at times.

    "Signature vibrato" as in "signature sour notes." As much as I like Ron Carter I have to admit, owning up to your euphemism made me laugh. I mainly know Ron Carter from some of his 60s playing with Miles, and I can't say that I've noticed intonation problems any worse than most other non-classical DB players. But he does seem to get that rap. You two are far from the first people to say it.

    Like I said, I'm not a bass player. I play guitar. And I studied cello with a teacher for 3+ years as an adult, before giving it up. What I do notice with jazz double bass players is how few of them can play in tune higher up on the fingerboard in thumb position. There are DB players who I like a lot that make me cringe when they solo in thumb position.
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2015
    gerry grable likes this.
  6. gerry grable

    gerry grable Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2010

    This intonation problem has always puzzled me since RC has always been touted as a cellist first. I've always wondered how he allowed some of the cuts on his first album as a leader "Where? Ron Carter" to be released. Budget restrictions? But on the other hand, he can groove like a s.o.b!
     
  7. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Kind of an odd version of the So What melody, as RC also plays the "response" to the "call" of the bass melody, unlike the original (PC).
    Definitely no frets here:

    For the record, RC is on some of my favorite recordings, and is (already) in the History Book of Jazz/Bass.
     
  8. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    BTW, Ron's BG was a Rickenbacker, an unusual choice. He played it on a few tracks with Miles but mostly on studio sessions.
     
  9. gerry grable

    gerry grable Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2010

    The only thing "odd" about this cut is the fade-out ending. Since I've mostly worked with trios, I've always played it like this, and curiously, at the same tempo. Without horns in the mix, the "response" simply becomes part of the melody, a hole to fill to my ear-- and obviously RC's.
    And, for the record, I concur with your "for the record" :)
     
  10. jloehrke

    jloehrke

    Dec 23, 2010
    According to Ron's site he's on over 2500 recordings. A recording per week for 50 years is 2600. Think about that. Perhaps the thing we should do is focus on what this genius does right instead of foolishly and childishly nitpicking on what are obviously unimportant issues with his playing.
     
    oliebrice and dfp like this.
  11. gerry grable

    gerry grable Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2010

    Sorry, but I don't consider the subject of intonation to be foolish or childish nitpicking, and certainly not an unimportant issue--particularly in the case of one of the best bassists in jazz.
     
  12. jloehrke

    jloehrke

    Dec 23, 2010
    Intonation is subjective. In the case of true Masters (check out Bird, Miles, Ron Carter, Jackie McLean) it's about strength of line and intention, not European style perfection. Do Billie Holiday and Lester Young sound out of tune to you? Again, a recording Every Week for Fifty Years. Poor intonation, or a profound intelligence about what makes African-American music great?
     
    dfp likes this.
  13. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    I have to keep reminding myself - "He played on "Miles Smiles......", "He played on Speak Like a Child.....", "He played on "Maiden Voyage....", etc.


    I think it's worthwhile to focus on and evaluate ALL aspects of anybody's playing - both positive and negative.
    Your (Intonation) May Vary...
    Thanks.
     
    gerry grable likes this.
  14. DC Bass

    DC Bass

    Mar 28, 2010
    Washington DC
    Wow! I wonder how he came to the decision to select a Ric? Unusual choice, indeed.

    Perhaps, as an upright player, he figured slabs were "all the same", and grabbed the first one he came across? I guess it could have been a gift...IDK.

    Regardless, despite the fact that they aren't particularly versatile, I LOVE Rickenbacker basses. This revelation makes me want to seek out some of those tracks for a listen with fresh ears- I haven't heard any of that stuff since I was in college.

    Thanks!

    Joe
     
  15. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    From memory of an interview I read he walked into a NYC store (Manny's?) spent a few minutes playing a few BGs and picked the Ric. It didn't sound like he gave it too much thought. He's stated many times that he felt the BG and DB were different instruments and he didn't have the time to develop his playing on both to a high level.
     
  16. jloehrke

    jloehrke

    Dec 23, 2010
    Sorry to get obsessive about this, but as an older cat who has played a lot of great music, but has not had the career I'd hoped for, I like to listen to guys like Ron and figure out why they're so great. I've come to the conclusion that his approach to pitch is far from a problem. It is an essential element of his sound, which obviously a lot of the greatest musicians, producers and jazz fans who choose to spend hard earned money on the music love. In other words, he has some profound knowledge about what makes jazz work that those who hear poor intonation don't. It's not a problem in his case, it's a strength. Again: an album a week for 50 years, including a bunch on anyone's top whatever list. Would it be a mistake to call him the most influential jazz musician in the last five decades? Are rhythm sections more important than typically presented in jazz history classes?
     
    dfp likes this.
  17. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Brent,

    I stand corrected, although I'm pretty certain he has mentioned owning a Ric. There are Ric related sites that list him as using one.

    However, I just found this at Anil Prasad's Innerviews web site:

    During the ‘70s, you were known to play electric bass on occasion. What made you pick up the instrument?

    It’s been about 30 years since I played one. I remember having to buy one—a Danelectro—because the studios were making demands on upright players to have that instrument in their hands so the producer could have another choice of sounds. The electric bass was new to me and I simply picked the lightest-weight bass that I could carry around with my upright. I wasn’t forced to play electric bass but I wanted to work as necessary during that period.
     
  18. pacojas

    pacojas "FYYA BUN"

    Oct 11, 2009
    MEXICANADAMERICA
    listening to RC is one thing,.. watching the man is a whole other plateau! he indeed manipulates his intonation in ways that make people like me go, "Wow!
    every note was filled with purpose and emotion. he was one of many A-listers on stage that night and he schooled everyone and on being dynamic without even trying.
     
    dfp likes this.
  19. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    I completely agree but when you're discussing how to identify him as a player talking about his choice of pitch on many notes is unavoidable. Those choices can be jarring and I don't always understand or enjoy them but I don't doubt for a minute that most of it is intentional and simply how he was hearing things in that moment.
     
  20. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Just check out the first 2 duo tracks below - 'Round Midnite and Polkadots and Moonbeams.
    Cringeworthy Intonation. I can't imagine why this "essential element" would be some kind of Artistic Decision made by RC.
    IMHO.
     

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