Ron Carter, jazz’s most prolific bassist: ‘Our band was a laboratory – and Miles Davis was head chemist’

He overcame prejudice to play on more than 2,000 albums, and is still going strong at 86. Carter recalls laughter with Aretha Franklin, composing with Roberta Flack, and what Miles taught him in their classic quintet

‘There are three pieces of advice I give all my students: first, be on time. Time is money so don’t waste it. Second, check your ego. Pay attention and play well. Third, keep your ears open. If you’ve left your ego at home and got your ears open then you can hear what is happening with the music and make the best possible contribution.”

So states Ron Carter, who, at 86, remains a formidable figure in American music: having played on more than 2,250 individual albums, he has an entry in Guinness World Records as the most recorded bassist in jazz history. “I love to make music and I’m a servant of the music,” says Carter, who teaches at various New York universities. “Being a bandleader is good because I get to make all the decisions but I also revel in the opportunity to play with other musicians, to serve their vision, because it’s a learning thing, a beautiful process. And,” he adds drolly, “playing sessions pays well.”

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