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Ron Carter Nonet at Birdland
- Jazz

Jazz and Cabaret Reviews

By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower

May 30, 2003

Ron Carter Nonet
Ron Carter on Piccolo Bass, Stephen Scott on Piano, Payton Crossley on Drums, Steve Kroon on Percussion, Boots Maleson on Bass, and, on Cello, Kermit Moore, Ellen Hassman, Carol Buch, and Dorothy Lawson
315 West 44th Street, NYC
Gianni Valenti, Owner
Andy Kaufman, Business Manager
Tarik Osman, Manager

Tonight I not only heard exceptionally good Jazz at Birdland and socialized with the musicians in a predictably warm ambiance, but I had a perfect dinner, as well!! As a personal aside, I'm a very fussy diner. Not the NY diner who sits in 10 different locations, looking for just the right view of the stage, but a health-oriented diner, almost vegetarian. The grilled salmon and salad, with a high-end Merlot, was, for me, heaven and a perfect beginning to a great evening of Jazz. The service is timely and just as warm as the food (hot and succulent). It is so unusual to find good food at a Jazz Club, but here you are. It's all at Birdland.

This was a most unusual concert, which began in a classical manner, with the ensemble of four cellos, along with two basses, drums, and wide-ranging eclectic percussion. Stephen Scott, on piano, played the interior piano strings, which were evocative of a harp. With the cello ensemble and two basses, this was almost a fuller, earthier version of my memories of the late Noel Pointer's electric violin music, which also utilized the full complement of shakers and chimes, gongs and bells. This was a stirring theme on strings and new-age percussion. Ron Carter led his Nonet with his arms in the air, barely moving from his seated position. He encouraged the cellists to extend their final notes, seemingly endlessly.

In a following piece (there were no announcements, except a hushed listing of musicians), Ron Carter led a solo bass theme, with the four cellos as backup. This string ensemble was an entirely new sound, so warm and classical in tone. Suddenly, the piano held the lead, followed by Boots Maleson on bass. The next 15 minutes, or so, could have been a rare Jazz moment, as the two basses talked to each other, first Maleson, then Carter, in complementary tone and tempo, like a private conversation in a private language, but one that could be so readily appreciated by the Birdland guests. This was a fascinating and effective exchange, which was transformed into a bass duet, with a full Nonet finish, as Carter played the final theme. I did not see bows utilized by either bassist, as the cellists had that refined style. Carter's performance style is smooth and mellow, like a warm cognac by a roaring fire. Scott's piano was mostly focused on the higher notes, with trills at lightning speed, as he extended the sounds of the Nonet to a new auditory range. Carter's bass was singing. It was the expressive vocalist.

Steve Kroon's percussion was upbeat and scintillating. The steel bells and wind chimes were sometimes soft and sometimes sonorous. He was extremely aware of the appropriate effect, with unusual blending, so that his percussive instruments lent a signature aura that was pervasive and powerful. When the four cellos took the theme, alternating with piano, they sounded like a raging wind, with fullness and ferocity. Payton Crossley on drums knew just when to be showcased and just when to blend, in an important role, as his was the most dramatic set of instruments in this unusual Nonet. The gong completed this piece, with a surprising effect.

Boots Maleson is an extremely talented bassist, with presence and skill, so, to have two highly skilled bassists onstage together, was such an adventure in acoustics and ambiance. Maleson could hold his own in any Jazz experience, but, with Carter onstage, as well, as a master musician, this duo-bass, aesthetic effect was surreal. Kermit Moore, Ellen Hassman, Carol Buch, and Dorothy Lawson are all technically proficient cellists and a wonderful ensemble. They are obviously classically trained.

Bravo to Birdland for presenting the Ron Carter Nonet. I'll listen to Carter's CDs, now, with new attention and appreciation.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at