Ron Carter ‘Finding The Right Notes’ Film Documentary and Soundtrack Preview

Six years in the making, the documentary film of the most comprehensive look into the life of jazz bassist Ron Carter arrives.

Courtesy of DL Media

PBS Documentary showing date October 21, 2022

CD Release Date October 21, 2022 ~ Vinyl Release Date November 18, 2022

Six years in the making, the documentary film of the most comprehensive look into the life of jazz bassist Ron Carter arrives. Ron Carter: Finding the Right Notes was produced and directed by the renowned producer/director Peter Schnall, a seven-time Emmy Award and Peabody Award winner.   

Schnall reveals poignant and joyful details of the jazz maestro’s life, from his early years as a cello student in high school through his years in the Miles Davis Quintet of the ‘60s and into his vital solo career that continues to expand. In addition to the television broadcast premiere, the exclusive soundtrack of never-before heard Ron Carter performances will be released as a CD/double vinyl recording by Freiburg, Germany-based IN+OUT Records on October 21.  

The album includes a live performance filmed at the Newport Jazz Festival of Carter’s classic original “Soft Winds,” and an impromptu bass duet of “Willow Weep for Me” with Christian McBride at The National Jazz Museum in Harlem. There are also tunes from two New York Blue Note club sessions with Bill Frisell on “My Man’s Gone Now” and a first-time recording with fellow bassist Stanley Clarke on “Bag’s Groove.” The most rewarding recording comes when Carter meets up with Jon Batiste at the Power Station studio for a conversation and ultimately a song: “Sweet Lorraine.”  

Toward the end of the production, Schnall had thought of reviewing Carter’s history, but then decided to have someone else on screen. He invited Batiste who was once a student of the elder while he attended Juilliard. What better choice than to have two of music’s most prominent artists talk together? The session lasted two hours. “My hope was that the two would play together,” says Schnall. “When Ron showed up with his bass, I knew that something was going to happen.”  

Schnall admits that he didn’t grow up as a jazz aficionado. His introduction to Carter came from his friend John Matera, a jazz enthusiast, who had invited him to see the bassist perform at the Blue Note in the West Village. “Towering over his bass, Ron played with a sensitivity that commanded attention,” Schnall writes in the recording liner notes. “I was mesmerized. When the show ended, my friend John told me we had just witnessed the greatest living bass player. He wondered why a documentary had never been produced on Ron’s 60-year career. Half-joking, I said, maybe now’s the time.”  

So began Schnall’s long journey interviewing Carter at his house, on the road, in the studio to fully understand the 85-year-old’s majestic life story, with Jonathan Zalben serving the valuable role as the film’s musical supervisor. He started out by writing a letter to Carter and then visiting him at home. “It was the most wonderful and interesting and surprising conversation. We chatted for two hours, not so much about music, but about life. That was to be the beginning of an extraordinary journey together.”  

If Schnall hadn’t been steeped in jazz before, he certainly gained a depth of appreciation from Carter as well as from the other great jazz musicians he interviewed, ranging from Herbie Hancock to Sonny Rollins.  

As for getting the documentary out to the public, Schnall first pitched the story to PBS. “They immediately said ‘yes’ to the project, they were very excited about the Ron Carter story,” he says. “Later, when we presented PBS with our 90-minute rough cut, they asked if we could extend the show to two hours. That doesn’t happen too often.”  

The same enthusiasm held true with IN+OUT Records. “The soundtrack was produced in less than three months,” Schnall says. “It’s an important compilation, as the tracks represent the breadth and scope of the music Mr. Carter has been performing throughout his career.”

In his documentary, Schnall captures the admiration so many artists have for Carter. Here’s a sampling of praise from the remarkable film:  

“He’s creating his legacy, I think, every day. I think he’s been doing that for a long time. … every bass player today, whether they know it, like it, or whatever, when you play jazz bass, there’s a bit of Ron Carter in everyone.” — Stanley Clarke, bassist  

“He’s like an architect. He’s thinking ahead. He’s building a direction when he plays. But at the same time, he’s listening to what drums are doing, what the piano is doing. Every part of it, all of that happening at the same time. But that’s what creativity is about in jazz.”  —Herbie Hancock, pianist  

“The beautiful thing about jazz and maybe about all music is that it lends to individuality. All the great players have an individual sound. You can identify Ron if you hear some music for a few moments, you can listen; ‘oh yeah, that’s Ron Carter’.”  —Sonny Rollins, saxophonist
Vivascene Staff

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