Ron Carter is an American jazz double-bassist. His unique sound has made him a long sought after studio man. His appearances on over 2,500 albums make him one of the most-recorded bassists in jazz history, along with Milt Hinton, Ray Brown and Leroy Vinnegar. Carter is also an acclaimed cellist who has recorded numerous times on cello. He also has recorded a large body of classical work, and he contributed to the film score for Desperate Characters (1971).
Carter started to play cello at the age of 10, but when his family moved to Detroit, he ran into difficulties regarding the racial stereotyping of classical musicians and instead moved to bass. He attended the historic Cass Technical High School where he played in the Eastman School of Music's Philharmonic Orchestra. He gained his bachelor's degree in 1959, and in 1961 a master's degree in double bass performance from the Manhattan School of Music.
His first jobs as a jazz musician were with Jaki Byard and Chico Hamilton. His first records were made with Eric Dolphy (another former member of Hamilton's group) and Don Ellis, in 1960.
Carter is an acclaimed cellist who has performed on record numerous times with the cello, notably his own first date as leader, Where?, with Dolphy and Mal Waldron and a date also with Dolphy called Out There with George Duvivier and Roy Haynes and Carter on cello; its advanced harmonics and concepts for 1961 were reminiscent of the then current third stream movement on cello by Carter.
Carter came to fame via the second great Miles Davis quintet in the early 1960s, which also included Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Tony Williams.
Carter joined Davis's group in 1963, appearing on the album Seven Steps to Heaven and the follow-up E.S.P., the latter being the first album to feature the full quintet. It also featured three of Carter's compositions (the only time he contributed compositions to Davis's group). He stayed with Davis's regular group until 1968 (when he was replaced by Dave Holland), and participated in a couple of studio sessions with Davis in 1969 and 1970. Although he played electric bass occasionally during this period, he has subsequently eschewed that instrument entirely, and now plays only acoustic bass. Carter was close with Davis and even revealed to an interviewer in 1966 that the famous trumpeter's favorite color was fuchsia.
Carter also performed on some of Hancock, Williams and Shorter's recordings during the sixties for Blue Note Records. He was a sideman on many Blue Note recordings of the era, playing with Sam Rivers, Freddie Hubbard, Duke Pearson, Lee Morgan, McCoy Tyner, Andrew Hill and many, many others.
After leaving Davis, 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.
He appears on the alternative hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest's influential album The Low End Theory on a track called "Verses from the Abstract". He also appears as a member of the jazz combo, The Classical Jazz Quartet.
Carter was Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the Music Department of The City College of New York, having taught there for twenty years, and received an honorary Doctorate from the Berklee College of Music, in Spring 2004.
Ron Carter is a pipe smoker and has been featured in a few advertisements for tobacco pipes, clothing lines, and basses.
Ron Carter appears in the advertisements for a Tully's chilled coffee beverage in Japan.