The Northampton Jazz Festival has appeared in different formats over the years and has offered a wide range of talented musicians, from industry veterans to up-and-coming players.
But the festival has yet to be a forum for a musician who has racked up more than 2,200 recording credits, making him the most recorded bassist in history, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
On October 1, famed Ron Carter, who turned 85 earlier this year, will bring his quartet to the Academy of Music for the Jazz Festival’s Coronation Concert, a two-day event that will feature performances by 15 jazz ensembles in several venues around Northampton town centre, including a number of restaurants.
And with the exception of the Ron Carter concert, which takes place at 7:30 p.m., everything is free.
The festival begins on Friday September 30 with what is called the “Downtown Jazz Strut”, in which eight ensembles, between 4:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., will play sets varying between half an hour and two hours in several locations downtown. , including Pulaski Park, Progression Brewery Co. and Spoleto.
On Saturday, October 1, “Jazz Fest Day”, features six bands at Pulaski Park, The Parlor Room and the Unitarian Society between 11:15 a.m. and 5 p.m., ranging from the jazz vocal harmonies of the Royal Bopsters to guitar. sounds based on the Freddie Bryant Brazilian Trio (Bryant graduated from Amherst College in New York).
These performances will set the stage for the Academy show of the Ron Carter Quartet, which includes Carter, drummer Payton Crossley, saxophonist Jimmy Greene and pianist Renee Rosnes. The quartet is one of many ensembles with which Carter, born in the Detroit area in 1937, continues to tour regularly — and he’s showing no signs he’ll be slowing down anytime soon.
Among the many highlights of his resume, he was part of the legendary Miles Davis Quintet of the mid to late 1960s, a group that included Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. Also a composer, he has released several of his own albums and played with countless musicians, and not just in jazz: with musicians such as Dexter Gordon and Wes Montgomery, he has played with BB King, Aretha Franklin and Billy Joel.
Carter, who grew up playing the cello and also performed on that instrument, received much credit for his influential bass playing. One critic calls him “a brilliant rhythmic and melodic player who uses everything in his bass and cello arsenal: the marching lines; thick, full and prominent notes and tones; drones and strumming effects; and melody excerpts.
Avery Sharpe, Valley’s veteran bassist and songwriter who himself has played with many notable musicians, including McCoy Turner, says Carter “wrote the book” when it comes to walking bass in jazz: “He influenced all the bass players who came after him, including me.”
Sharpe says he first encountered Carter’s playing while studying bass at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the early 1970s, a time when Carter was recording extensively for CTI Records, a record label jazz whose list included George Benson, Freddie Hubbard and many other big names.
“Ron has such amazing sound, such volume, on his bass,” said Sharpe, who has met Carter several times over the years. “That’s what I wanted to learn.”
George Kaye, bassist for the Valley Green Street Trio jazz ensemble, took some bass lessons with Carter via Zoom during the pandemic. It was a great experience, he says, although a bit daunting, at least at first: “When you’re in the presence of a genius, you can get a little nervous.”
Kaye says he’s long been in awe of Carter’s playing hearing it on records and live, and seeing and hearing him play on his own computer screen has reinforced that.
“His playing is so melodic and so intuitive, it’s just innate – it’s like he always thinks two choruses ahead and knows where [the music] going. He absolutely leads the group. And his tone and articulation are simply outstanding.
A multiple Grammy award winner, author and former music teacher at the City College of New York, Carter hosted a high-profile special concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall last May to mark his 85th birthday, during which he performed with and directed three sets.
Asked at the time by Forbes magazine what motivates him to play music after a career spanning more than six decades, he said: “I always thought of going to a concert as a free lesson: ‘Qu can these musicians offer me that I don’t already know?’ And at each concert where I am there, I am never surprised by what I pick up.
And in an email he sent to the Gazette, Carter said his ongoing musical journey is also about “the quest to find more just notes!”
Meanwhile, Ruth Griggs, president of the Northampton Jazz Festival, said Carter had never played in Northampton, although he had performed in Amherst and the Boston area. “So it’s a bit of a knock to get it,” she noted in an email.
It was George Kaye’s suggestion, Griggs added, that the jazz festival try to book Carter.
Ticket sales have been good for her show, she said, which would seem to indicate “that people in this area and in New England are really excited to see him come to [Northampton] …they know and appreciate what it really means to bring Ron Carter to the stage here.
Here is a brief overview of the other ensembles playing at the Northampton Jazz Festival:
The next generation of musicians: The Combined Jazz from Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School in South Hadley, and the Sci-Tech Group of Springfield, will play Sept. 30 at Pulaski Park at 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., respectively. And the UMass Jazz Ensemble will play at Pulaski Park at 1:30 p.m. on October 1
Ashley Pezzotti and Threesome – Young New York singer Ashley Pezzotti has performed or toured with jazz giants such as Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, while performing at venues such as the Birdland Jazz Club and the Blue Note Jazz Club . She and her trio – Miki Yamanaka (piano), Jason Clotter (bass), TJ Reddick (drums) – perform at the Unitarian Society on October 1 at 3 p.m.
Oh La Baswhich includes internationally acclaimed trumpeter and vocalist Bria Skonberg, clarinetist Evan Arntzen, banjoist Arnt Arntzen, bassist Jen Hodge and drummer Andrew Millar, will perform Oct. 1 at 5 p.m. at Pulaski Park.
Additionally, jazz archivist Matthew “Fat Cat” Rivera will spin old jazz 78 rpm records at Pulaski Park at 2:30 p.m. on October 1.
More information is available at northamptonjazzfest.org. Tickets for the Ron Carter Quartet can be purchased there and at aomtheatre.com.