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Ron Carter talks about jazz, life and his upcoming 87th birthday

Ron Carter spoke with KNKX jazz host Abe Beeson a few days before his 87th birthday.
Jay Blakesberg
Ron Carter Management
Ron Carter spoke with KNKX jazz host Abe Beeson a few days before his 87th birthday.

In a remarkable career spanning over 60 years, Ron Carter has become the most recorded bass player in history. Carter celebrates his 87th birthday Saturday, and he spoke with KNKX about his life in music.

Carter talked about the differences between the bass and the cello, his first instrument as a young musician. He said the practice routine of the cello was one of the few, but important, lessons he was able to use in his career.

Asked about his influences, Carter mentioned the individual styles of baritone saxophonist Cecil Payne and trombonist J.J. Johnson as more important musical mentors than bass legends like Charles Mingus, Ray Brown and Oscar Pettiford.

"I love listening to them... I still do," Carter said. "But I had no interest in modeling me after any of them."

A graduate of the Eastman School of Music, Carter said the role of educators should not end in the classroom. "If the schools would make part of the students' education going to a club to see their teacher play, can you imagine how many clubs would be flourishing because of that?"

The conversation also covers Carter's time with the Miles Davis quintet and his work with non-jazz artists like Jefferson Airplane and A Tribe Called Quest. He also talked about his many travels and warm receptions he's had around the world. Carter, who is based in New York, also hinted about a return to the Seattle area.

"I haven't been there in a very long time," Carter said. "I do know of the jazz scene there. I know it's getting bigger and there's some nice music coming out of there and there's some nice places to play. I'm anxious to see that!"

Seattle jazz fans, keep your hopes up for a visit from Ron Carter, a living legend of the bass and keeper of the jazz flame.

Click "Listen" above to hear the full interview.

Abe grew up in Western Washington, a third generation Seattle/Tacoma kid. It was as a student at Pacific Lutheran University that Abe landed his first job at KNKX, editing and producing audio for news stories. It was a Christmas Day shift no one else wanted that gave Abe his first on-air experience which led to overnights, then Saturday afternoons, and started hosting Evening Jazz in 1998.