Ron Carter: Anything Goes [Japan] (2001)

RON CARTER: ANYTHING GOES (Liner notes by Arnaldo DeSouteiro)

Ronald Levin Carter (born Ferndale, Michigan, on May 4, 1937) needs no introduction. Let’s just say that he is the bassist’s bassist. On Ron’s hands, the bass and the man become the same entity, the same person. Played by Ron Carter, the acoustic bass sounds like... Ron Carter! That’s why he is one of the three top bassists in the music history.

However, if Ron needs no introduction, his Anything Goes album does. Recorded on June & July, 1975, at Van Gelder’s Studio, it is completely different from all the other three albums (Blues Farm, All Blues, Spanish Blue) that Ron Carter had already recorded for CTI. It was also entirely dissimilar of the fourth and last album he would record for CTI in 1976, Yellow & Green.

Anything Goes, Ron Carter’s only album issued on CTI’s subsidiary Kudu label, was more reminiscent of some of the early sessions he did for Kudu in the early Seventies, palying electric bass on albums by Hank Crawford (Help Me Make It Through The Night), Grover Washington, Jr. (Inner City Blues), as well as on Deodato’s unforgettable fusion version of Baubles, Bangles And Beads, from the CTI best-selling album ever, Prelude. Not to mention CTI Summer Jazz Live At The Hollywood Bowl, recorded in 1972, which liner photo shows Ron playing electric bass seated beside George Benson.

It doesn’t means that Ron plays electric bass on Anything Goes. He only uses acoustic bass and, for some solo overdubs, the piccolo bass, an instrument that, like he explained on Leonard Feather/Ira Gitler’s Encyclopedia of Jazz In The Seventies, “is three-quarters the size of a three-quarter bass... tuned like a cello upside down.” But the Anything Goes atmosphere is electric and electrifying. Thanks to Creed Taylor’s production orientations, David Matthews’ funkfied arrangements, and specially Eric Gale’s frenetic r&b guitar playing.

It is very important to note that the Ron Carter/CTI association was a two-way street. For sure Ron was already an acclaimed player when he signed as a solo artist for CTI in 1973. But, thanks to Creed Taylor’s Midas touch, who put him as sideman on so many CTI sessions as possible between 1970 and 1973, and also allowed him to record, on January 1973, his debut album for the label (Blues Farm), Ron’s popularity increased enormously. To the point that, on December 1973, Ron was, for the first time, voted Best Acoustic Bassist on Down Beat’s Readers Poll.

Ron Carter had become Creed Taylor’s favorite bassist in the Mid-Sixties, during Creed’s years as A&R at Verve (on albums by Wes Montgomery, Astrud Gilberto and Kenny Burrell) although they had worked before on Gil Evans’ Out Of The Cool masterpice for the Impulse! label in 1960. Later on, during the A&M/CTI period, Ron recorded with everyone, from Artie Butler to Nat Adderley, from Paul Desmond to J&K and the Soul Flutes group.

Then, in the early Seventies, Ron’s musical aplomb, aristocratic attitude and stunning virtuosity became and integral part of CTI’s success, leaving his trademark on some of the label’s most memorable albums by Freddie Hubbard (Red Clay), Stanley Turrentine (Sugar), Hubert Laws (The Rite of Spring), George Benson (White Rabbit), Milt Jackson (Sunflower), Chet Baker (She Was Too Good To Me) and Jim Hall (Concierto). For sure, Ron’s contributions for sure helped a lot to lead CTI to be voted the No.1 jazz label by Billboard magazine in 1974.

Focusing back on Anything Goes, all its basic tracks were recorded on June 1975, the same month on which arranger David Matthews was working on Kudu sessions for Hank Crawford (I Hear A Symphony) and Idris Muhammad (House of the Rising Sun). This time, however, there is no strings section. Just a solid rhythm team (with late keyboardists Don Grolnick and Richard Tee) and a small but fiery horn section, which includes Phil Woods, whose association with Creed dates backs from 1958, when he began to record as a member of the Creed Taylor Orchestra in such albums as Lonelyville, Once Around The Clock (with singer Patricia Scot) and Shock! Phil’s latest session for Creed was on CTI’s all-star project Rhythmstick, in 1989.

The album musical direction becomes clear in the opening track, a surprising soul-disco version of Cole Porter’s standard Anything Goes. Hubert Laws plays the melody, with Eric Gale (using the wah-wah pedal) and Ron Carter (on the piccolo bass) taking the solo spots. Steve Gadd is on the drums, with three female singers (Patti Austin among them) doing the backing vocals.

David Sanborn’s very influential alto sax sound carries Baretta’s Theme, the TV cop show tune written by Dave Grusin and Morgan Ames. However, the sax soloist is tenorist Michael Brecker, whose muscular approach fits well with David Matthews’ basic sketches for the rhythm section. On Big Fro (probably the only disco-tune ever written by Ron Carter), Eric Gale plays his ass off, contributing with a bluesy solo attached to irresistible r&b horn riffs.

Can’t Give You Anything But My Love (please, not to be confused with the Jimmy McHugh-Dorothy Fields standard I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby) is a pop hit written for The Stylistics’ album Thank You Baby. Its composers Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore and George David Weiss are the same trio who wrote Can’t Help Falling In Love for Elvis Presley. Under the name Hugo & Luigi, that RCA staff production duo also conceived some of the main hits of the early rock & roll era.

Besides the more commercial stuff, there are two seductive Brazilian-oriented songs penned by Ron Carter: De Samba and Quarto Azul, both enlightened by melodic solo statements by Hubert Laws (using electric flute on the bossa nova Quarto Azul) and Randy Brecker, on flugelhorn. Eric Gale plays an amplified acoustic guitar, Ralph MacDonald doubles on congas and percussion, and drummer Jimmy Madison (a member of David Matthews’ Big Band on CTI albums by Art Farmer and Urbie Green) reveals the influence of Dom Um Romao.

Quarto Azul and De Samba display Ron Carter’s passion and affinity for Brazilian rhythms, which led him to become the top choice bassist for many Brazilian masters such as Antonio Carlos Jobim (Wave, Tide, Stone Flower, Matita Pere, Urubu, Miucha & Jobim, Antonio Brasileiro), Astrud Gilberto (Beach Samba, Windy, Gilberto with Turrentine), Dom Um Romao (Hotmosphere), Eumir Deodato (Prelude), Luiz Bonfa (Sanctuary, The New Face of Bonfa), Hermeto Pascoal (Hermeto, Slaves Mass), Ithamara Koorax (Red River, Ithamara Koorax Sings The Bonfa Songbook), Milton Nascimento (Angelus), Airto Moreira (Natural Feelings, Seeds On The Ground, Free) and Flora Purim (Stories To Tell, 500 Miles At Montreux, Open Your Eyes You Can Fly, Encounter). Since then, Ron Carter has continued to write many Brazilian-oriented songs, like Ah, Rio (from his 1980 album Patrao, for Mliestone Records) and the title track of a recent Blue Note album, Mr. Bow Tie. For this and the other aforementioned reasons, Anything Goes remains, for better or for worse, depending of each listener’s taste, an one-of-a-kind album on Ron Carter’s discography.

Arnaldo DeSouteiro
Petropolis, May 26, 2001
Mr. DeSouteiro is Brazil’s top jazz producer and CTI historian.