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Ron Carter is best known for playing the holding role as bassist with Miles Davis’s high-octane 1960s quintet. His 2,000-plus recording credits span 45 years and include James Brown, the rap group A Tribe Called Quest and the fiery avant-garde jazz
saxophonist Eric Dolphy. His own albums have always been more salubrious affairs, referencing classical baroque and Spanish impressionism.
The drummerless Golden Striker trio make these chamber-jazz references more explicit – their name comes from the Modern Jazz Quartet’s most complete recording and is the title track of their recent Blue Note album. Over two sets, they captured all the filigree detail and understated subtleties of the genre, and played with such finesse and verve that they soon silenced the most determined diner, even though the volume level rarely strayed above that of an animated conversation.
If good bass players, like Victorian children, should be seen and not heard, Carter breaks the mould. He has the uncanny knack of making the most prosaic role in modern jazz – a walking bass line – sound melodic. Strong in attack, he lets his notes hover, adding in trademark slurs and arpeggios, but far from detracting from the overall ensemble they add richness and variety. Carter revels in understated power, whether delivering an undeviating bass riff, or a demanding cadenza. Rarely have the intricacies of jazz bass-playing been followed so closely, and received such warm applause.
But this was no look-at-me Ron Carter showcase. Guitarist Russell Malone and Mulgrew Miller on piano had loads of solo space, much of it unaccompanied. Malone’s tone and attack recall Oscar Moore, guitarist with the Nat “King” Cole trio, but with added harmonic adventure even when picking and strumming four-to- the-bar. Conversely, Miller moderated his modernist leanings with the lush harmonies of 1950s piano, or placed single notes so sparsely that silence became sound.
The real focus, though, was the trio itself, unpicking standards such as “My Funny Valentine” and well- worked originals. Enchantingly, even the unaccompanied passages seemed to be a product of mutual empathy.
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