Second Great Miles Davis Quintet titan Ron Carter, now 85, the most recorded jazz bassist in history, here on this soundtrack album to a new PBS documentary as you would probably and duly achieved expect keeping stellar company not only with the WDR Big Band, Europe's top jazz big band by a long distance, but lots of big individual names too including Stanley Clarke playing with Ron for the first time on 'Bags' Groove', Payton Crossley, Bill Frisell, Jimmy Greene, Russell Malone, Christian McBride and Renee Rosnes.
An album that doesn't really seem to belong at all to the current era even within jazz let alone the contemporary popular music landscape like a lot of jazz that swings. That's because big band sounds like these are period pieces. Is there anything wrong with that you may whisper? Arch modernists might say there is. Without getting into golden ageism which is a big bear trap of a subject where everyone gets snared styles established in the 1940s, 50s and 60s still have plenty of currency let's face it. More recent jazz styles (eg acid jazz, nu jazz, jazztronica) often have less perhaps because they haven't been around as long and are not as revolutionary as bebop which is the bedrock of all modernistic jazz since the 1940s. Only jazz-rock, jazz-funk, eg big Ron's erstwhile Miles alumnus Herbie Hancock's trademark sound, the ECM approach, reinvention of the piano trio by EST and Brad Mehldau and AfroFuturism in the hands of Kamasi Wasington and others are among the few since the late-1960s to deserve the term innovation or if you prefer a rapid evolution of a new jazz consciousness.
Highlights here after a breezy beginning are the soft guitar textures allowed to weave intricately on 'Soft Winds' live at Newport. The best Milesian connection is a delicate and very appealing rendering of 'Flamenco Sketches'.
When you hear Ron duetting in Harlem with Christian McBride on 'Willow Weep For Me' you have to pick your jaw up off the floor. Bassists, if you don't already know and it would be weird if you didn't, throw out your textbooks and bunker down. Just get any record that you can lay your hands on including this that has Ron Carter on it. It's going to take a while to relearn everything you think you know.
Finding the Right Notes coincides with a 120-minute Peter Schnall produced PBS documentary of the same name broadcast last night.