Striking the Right Note – Ron Carter @ Ronnie Scott’s

Date: 29th March 2011
Where: Ronnie Scott’s, Soho, London
Artist: Ron Carter’s Golden Striker Trio

On Tuesday night at Ronnie Scott’s in Soho, Ron Carter seemed to seldom open his eyes. Here was music that was felt. His long sinewy aged fingers spread across the strings of his double bass, finding notes and repeating patterns. It was easy to believe that there was some kind of amazing telepathy between him and the fellow members of his Golden Striker Trio; pianist Mulgrew Miller, and guitarist Russell Malone.

The music was academic, polished, structured and there was an implicit understanding between the three musicians.

Occasionally, you would see a smile spread across two of the musicians’ faces as they recognise the variation in their colleague’s playing and a challenge has been thrown out for them to match the changes they’re hearing.

The evening was three numbers old before Mr Carter spoke to tell us that the musicians have been trying out some pieces for the library that they are gathering for the second Golden Striker Trio album which will be recorded in the late summer / early autumn of this year.

Now this kind of live performance appeals to me. The musicians are working out the wrinkles from their tunes on the live stage. This will allow, further down the road, for swift work in the studio – a move that more artists must follow if new recordings are to continue to be by those with comparatively small followings. Careers are being financed by live performance and not by the sales of new albums and if performers cannot afford to spend months in the studio, they must work out their new songs on the stage and that will be a significant challenge and change to the way that the “music business” has been run – gone are the days when huge record company recording budgets became the norm.

The fourth piece performed finds us in more familiar territory, the Rodgers / Hart song “My Funny Valentine”. The melody was stretched and broken open in a calculated whirl of improvisation as each band member takes a turn to solo, either unaccompanied or sensitively supported by the percussive nature of the playing of his friends. This is a band with no drummer but with a keen sense of rhythm which exudes from everything they do.

The second set was equally flawless. The best known piece in the second half was Benny Goodman’s “Soft Winds” but the music recognised or unrecognised, familiar or unfamiliar achieved a beauty and the musicians a synchronicity that you are seldom lucky enough to witness. Mulgrew Miller’s lines and subtle voicings, and Russell Malone’s precisely articulated blues and quietly strummed chords were a delight. Carter’s precision and finesse enthralled throughout without distracting from the whole, and when he finally pulled out all the stops, he delivered a tour de force, toying with a fragment of a melody.

No cameras allowed at Ronnie Scott’s so here’s a photo from another recent show by the band.

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