Ron Carter (born May 4, 1937, Ferndale, Michigan) 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 that instrument. 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 in Detroit, and, later, the Eastman School of Music, where he played in its Philharmonic Orchestra. He gained his bachelor’s degree at Eastman 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.
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.