Born in Ferndale Michigan, Cellist and Double bassist Ron Carter is one of the most recorded bassists in history being heard on over 2,000 albums, numerous times on cello as well. Carter earned a full scholarship to the Eastman School of Music, graduating in 1959 and becoming the first African American to play in the Rochester Philharmonic. It was at Eastman where he became disillusioned with the orchestral world and shifted his focus to jazz. The turning point came when he was 20. Leopold Stokowski, then the conductor of the Houston Symphony, had come to Rochester to guest-conduct the orchestra. Stokowski pulled Carter aside after rehearsal and told him, “I’d love to have you in my orchestra in Houston, but they’re not ready for colored people who play classical music.” The two time Grammy winner is still performing today.
Ron Carter (b. 1937) is an American jazz double-bassist who has performed on more than 2,500 albums, which makes him one of the most-recorded bassists in jazz history. Artists with whom he has recorded include Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and Bill Joel. Carter was elected to the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 2012.
The Michigan native is also an acclaimed cellist. He started to play cello at the age of 10, but ran into difficulties in Detroit regarding the racial stereotyping of classical musicians and instead moved to bass. He came to Rochester to study at the Eastman School of Music, where he played with the Eastman Philharmonia and earned his bachelor’s degree in 1959. He went on to earn a master’s degree in double bass performance from the Manhattan School of Music.
Carter came to fame via the second great Miles Davis Quintet in the 1960s. He contributed three compositions to Davis’s “Seven Steps to Heaven” album. Carter was for several years a mainstay of CTI Records, making albums under his own name and also appearing on many of the label’s records with a diverse range of other musicians. Notable musical partnerships in the ’70s and ’80s included Joe Henderson, Houston Person, Hank Jones, and Cedar Walton. During the 1970s he was a member of the New York Jazz Quartet. In 1986, Carter played acoustic bass on “Big Man on Mulberry Street” on Billy Joel‘s album “The Bridge.”
He appears on the alternative hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest‘s influential album “The Low End Theory” and on the Red Hot Organization‘s compilation album, “Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool.” The album, intended to raise awareness and funds in support of the AIDS epidemic in relation to the African-American community, was heralded as “Album of the Year” by TIME.
Carter made a notable appearance in Robert Altman‘s 1996 film, Kansas City. The end credits feature a duet by Carter and fellow bassist Christian McBride on “Solitude.” He also has been a member of the music faculty at The City College of New York and Juilliard School and received an honorary Doctorate from the Berklee College of Music in Spring 2005. He sits on the Advisory Committee of the Board of Directors of The Jazz Foundation of America as well as the Honorary Founder’s Committee.