Interview with Ron Carter

(Reprinted from old DTM, originally posted June 2007.)

Mr. Carter has a fabulous gig at Carnegie Hall to celebrate his 70th birthday.  Four groups are playing:

Quartet with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, & Billy Cobham
Trio with Mulgrew Miller & Russell Malone
Duets with Jim Hall
New Quartet with Stephen Scott, Payton Crossley, & Rolando Morales

DTM has never done a non-TBP press request before, but I couldn't pass up the chance to interview one of my all-time favorite musicians.  Thanks to DL Media for setting it up. 

I called Mr. Carter an hour before leaving for the current TBP tour, which was only about three hours after getting the email that set the phoner in motion.  I didn't need to study up: I have listened to and considered Ron Carter in great detail for about twenty years.


Ethan Iverson:  Mr. Carter, it's an honor to talk to you.  For my bona fides I'm going to play one of my favorite records over the phone.

Ron Carter:  Ok. 

[The first tune is heard.]

Oh yeah! Etudes.  That's a good one.  Tony Williams, Art Farmer, and Bill Evans.  I really enjoyed that one.

EI:  This is one of my favorite records that you've done as a leader.  It makes a case for you as an underrated composer.  You have a really distinctive style, with small catchy melodic shapes that circle around in kind of a humorous way.

RC:  I try.  It's great to hear that a stranger appreciates my compositions and my music. 

EI:  One of my favorite tunes of yours is "Einbahnstrasse." The special quartet at Carnegie Hall is Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and Billy Cobham.  On your record Uptown Conversation, you, Hancock, and Billy Cobham play "Einbahnstrasse" at the highest level.  I admit that this track is my favorite performance of Herbie Hancock in a trio setting.

RC:  Hancock was on fire! That's a great record.

EI:  And you also recorded "Einbahnstrasse" with Wayne Shorter on a Bobby Timmons record (with Jimmy Cobb on drums).  Any chance that "Einbahnstrasse" will be on the Carnegie Hall set list with Wayne, Herbie, and Cobham?

RC:  I don't know: the set list is still being planned.  On a gig like this, even the promoter gets involved in the repertoire. 

EI:  Well, it has my vote, at any rate. 

The phrase "The Sound of Jazz" is bandied about sometimes.  Well, for me, "The Sound of Jazz" is Ron Carter playing four beats in a row. 

RC:  I wouldn't disagree. 

EI:  You push the beat, but it is still somehow relaxed and swinging.  Is there anything technical you would say about that? Like, if someone wanted to learn to play like you?

RC:  For young bass players, my advice is always the same: take lessons from advanced bass players! Usually, bassists are the least educated musicians on the bandstand.  That's because if you play some bass, you can get some work.  Bands sometimes don’t improve because the bass players aren't really learning on the job.  All bass players should study harmony and music whenever they can.

EI:  I'm afraid that sometimes the leaders of those bands aren't very interested in a bass player bringing a lot to the bandstand.  The bassists might feel like bringing up the level of their contribution would not be warranted, if not actively disliked!

RC:  Well, that's their loss, because a lot of this music comes from the bass.

The bass takes a lot of work physically, but there's some kind of knowledge that is also from trial and error and getting relaxed in every situation.  From the second I take my bass out of the case on the current gig, I try to have the sound I had on the last gig.  If the sound of "me" is always there, that makes everything else less difficult.  Fighting every night for your sound is rough.

EI:  In terms of acquiring your kind of beat, what about that – is there anything specific or technical to say?

RC:  That's just innate.  Part of it is being willing to be flexible, even when you don't agree with the other players.  You can adjust.  I try to state what the beat is, and hopefully the other guys will trust me on that.  Most leaders like authority.  They don't want a mouse back there.  If you have authority, the other musicians will respond.

EI:  How many records are you on?

RC:  Over 2000.

EI:  I've heard only a couple of hundred of them, but I know that there are sessions when you are playing with a weaker drummer.  You still play your vibe, almost like you aren't paying attention to them.  Making the swing alone, with no help…

RC:  One of the things in my favor is that younger drummers trust me that I know where the beat really is.  A lot of the times they give me that respect because they have heard the records with Miles Davis.  But I would prefer it if they trusted me just because of how long I have been in the business, and that I have been working for so long to get it right.  There were nights with Miles that weren't ok!…but we worked it out and it would get better.  I want to be trusted for the "here and now," rather than the old records.

EI:  In the last ten years or so, we have lost three of the greatest drummers: Tony Williams, Billy Higgins, and Elvin Jones.  To me they all play the beat differently, and of course you played with them all.  Like you, Tony Williams seemed to push. 

RC:  That's not exactly right.  I know why you say that, but it is because Tony Williams played anticipations all the time: in a certain mood, he would play hits that were a 16th or more ahead of the beat with a lot of frequency.  That's why he sounded like he was on the top-side of the beat.

In comparison, Elvin Jones was a "downbeat player." He really played the "one."

EI:  I think I have all the records with you and Elvin together.  There aren't that many, just a half-dozen or so.  Did you gig together more?

RC:  We never played live, just in the studio.

EI:  Now, to me, there is nothing more swinging than the two of you together, because you are pushing and Elvin is laying back.  Like on that Pepper Adams date with Zoot Sims or The Real McCoy

RC:  You know, I just listened to The Real McCoy, maybe for the first time since I made it.  I had the original album still wrapped in cellophane.  (I probably should have not taken the cellophane off: I could have gotten a fortune for it on eBay.) But someone was telling me that it was one of the great records, so I took off the cellophane and listened to it.  I was taken aback.  Wow! We really got to it there.  I was like: let's try to get there again!

EI:  How did you feel at the time it was recorded?

RC:  Elvin was very headstrong.  I think he had to get used to me a little bit.  Now, I don't want to take this outer space, but the fact of the matter is, I play more forcefully than Jimmy Garrison did.  I had a bigger sound and had more authority than Jimmy did.  Elvin had to get used to it.  Once he heard where I thought it was, though, there was no problem: Elvin was a consummate musician.  So, in rehearsal, we agreed on a place and said, let's get this going! Yeah, The Real McCoy is a great record. 

[Ed: Not all agree with Mr. Carter's assessment of the great and enormous-toned Jimmy Garrison, whose relationship with Elvin Jones and the rest of the Coltrane quartet is more profound than Mr. Carter indicates here.  I have kept this uncomfortable comment in to make the suggestion of imagining how The Real McCoy would sound with Jimmy Garrison or Crescent with Ron Carter.  The fact that we wouldn't want them to trade places, not even for a tune, says much to the credit of both these phenomenal bassists.]

As for Billy Higgins, if I tried to define it, I would say that Billy Higgins represents the Vernel Fournier or New Orleans style.  Zigaboo Modeliste from the Meters has it too, in a different genre.  They all have the same location of beat "four" to beat "one".   It is so light and feathery from "four" to "one," "two" sort of takes care of itself.

EI:  That's beautiful, Mr. Carter.

RC:  I love drummers like Connie Kay, Kenny Clarke, and Osie Johnson.  Unfortunately I never played with Kenny Clarke, but I would have loved to.  These drummers sit right where I like it, not rushing or dragging, but with enough snare drum activity that the "one" doesn't feel so dominant.

EI:  I was there at the Blue Note during your last duo run with Jim Hall.  You looked so nervous…no...I don't mean "nervous," I mean so "incredibly concerned" that every harmonic substitution you and Hall did was there and together.

RC:  I was worried that Jim Hall hadn't been pushing it out there with his own groups as much recently, and was worried that I would be too aggressive, but it was fine.  The first night there were some substitutions, then the next night more, and so on.  I definitely put some out there that he wouldn't have done of his own volition.  You know, there was no rehearsal, not even really a sound check.  I love playing with Jim, though.

EI:  I guess what I am trying to get to is that if we were playing a standard together, I could play every alternate route I could think of and be confident that you would back me up with those big ears you have.

RC:  I want to get there…BEFORE you do! That's the whole fun of this, man!


EI:  Speaking of harmony, maybe we could talk about Wayne Shorter.  A few friends and I like to say that, "It seems like Ron's on every record, but it's too bad that he's not on even more." Certainly I wish that Ron Carter were on every Wayne Shorter record! I don't mean to say I don't admire the other bassists who played on Wayne Shorter records, but you really hook it up for Wayne on a different level. 

RC:  Wayne writes really hard chords, man! They don't always go where you want to go.  But it's up to you to make it work.  The chord functions aren't always in the bass, for example. 

EI:  Now, why do the Wayne Shorter records that you and Herbie are on [Speak No Evil, The All-Seeing Eye, Schizophrenia] have such a different harmonic atmosphere than the Miles Davis records that feature Wayne's tunes [Miles Smiles, Nefertiti, Sorcerer]?

RC:  You got another horn player: Miles Davis! Think about it if Sonny Stitt or J.J Johnson was the other horn…. 

EI:  Good Christ.  [Laughter.] No, I mean, did Miles do something to Wayne's charts?

RC:  No, we all were looking at Wayne's written music.  There was hardly any rehearsal.  We usually just got the music in the recording studio.  We made sure that the "A" section and the "B" – just the formal structure of a tune – was clear.  And then we would make a take.

EI:  Were there chord symbols? I had a theory that there were sometimes only piano voicings on the charts and not changes.

RC:  No, it's true that there were voicings, but also Wayne always had chord symbols.  And he knew exactly what they meant! My job was to make them sound reasonable.

I'm really looking forward to playing with Wayne on the 27th at Carnegie Hall.   It's been a few years now since we've played together.

EI:  Two of the groups at Carnegie don't have drums.  Why the emphasis on playing without drums these days, like duo with Jim Hall and your current trio with Russell Malone and Mulgrew Miller?

RC:  Several reasons.  First, Mulgrew and Russell play great – really great.  The other part is trying to find what kind of colors can I get without drums.  The hard part is that having cymbals in the background is what the audience is used to hearing.

EI:  Well, the half-hour is up.  Do you mind if I just bend your ear for another few minutes to ask you about what, for me, are your four immediate predecessors?

RC:  Go ahead.  I have ten more minutes.

EI:  Paul Chambers.

RC:  Fabulous! Highly underrated! He passed away far too young.  He was the first guy who played inversions of the chords.  Great beat, great sound, and the best recorded bass sound of his time.  He also took the Jimmy Blanton concept of soloing to the next level.

EI:  Wilbur Ware. 

RC:  He was first guy I met when I moved to New York, at the Five Spot in the late 50's.  I never saw him with his own bass.  He brought his sound and his notes to every bass he played, though.  (This is worth considering for those young bassists today who have to tour on borrowed basses.) Wonderful player.  I liked watching him play.

EI:  Wilbur had some sort of simple clarity which I think you might have taken something from.

RC:  Uh, no, I don't really think I took too much from him.  I have mostly taken things from the bands I was in, not other bassists as much. 

EI:  Percy Heath. 

RC:  I miss him dearly.  He would always come down to the gig I was playing, and we would talk, not just about the bass, but about life and philosophy.  I think the community of bass players doesn't realize yet how much they miss him.  I really miss him! Percy had a truly great sound.  I can see him right now, playing with Connie Kay in the Modern Jazz Quartet. 

EI:  Alright, I got one more. 

RC:  One more, then I'm out.

EI:  Get ready…Doug Watkins!

RC:  Oh, wow! Talk about a great sound! Sonny Rollins' Saxophone Colossus with Tommy Flanagan and Max Roach.  [sighs] I wish…in my imagination…

[long pause]

…sometimes I have a dream that Doug would have lived longer, and we would learned what he what would he have sounded like as bassists got pick-ups and amps.  Maybe he would have just stayed where he was…or maybe he would have changed.  I try to imagine it sometimes.  He and Leroy Vinnegar are two of my all-time favorites. 

EI:  Well, this has been a real pleasure for me, Mr. Carter.  I can't be there on the 27th, since I'll be on tour.  But I sure wish I could make it; I'm sure it will be wonderful.

RC:  Well, it sounds like you will be there in spirit, and I can dig that, too.


Bonus track:  Ron Carter on Record, originally posted a month later on the old DTM.


In the Ron Carter interview, there was the following exchange:

Ethan Iverson:  How many records are you on?

Ron Carter:  Over 2000. 

Ethan Iverson:  I've heard only a couple of hundred of them…

Thinking about this later, I wondered if these statistics could be right, and investigated. 

The following list of Ron discs that I've heard is not that accurate or complete, especially since I usually just refer to the first issued LP, not a later repackaging on CD or as a box set.  Also I keep thinking of more I'm temporarily forgetting...he really is on a lot of records!  (UPDATE, July 2010:  I've already heard quite a few more!)  I have starred the albums I think are particularly good for Ron's playing. 

Adams, Pepper Encounter! (with Zoot Sims)

Allen, Geri  Twenty One

Baker, Chet  Once Upon a Summertime

Barron, Kenny  One + One + One*

Brookmeyer  With Friends

Byard, Jaki  Here's Jaki, Hi-Fly

Carter, Ron   Etudes*, Uptown Conversation*, Patrao, Where?, Third Plane, New York Slick, Anything Goes

Davis, Miles  Seven Steps to Heaven*, Live in Europe*, Four and More*, My Funny Valentine*, E.S.P.*, Sorcerer*, Miles Smiles*, Neferiti*, Live in Berlin*, No Blues*, Live in Toyko*, The Greatest Concert Ever*, Water Babies*, Filles de Killimanjaro*, Live at the Plugged Nickel*

Desmond, Paul  From the Hot Afternoon

Deodato  Deodato

Dolphy, Eric  Out There, Far Cry*

Flanagan, Tommy  The Ultimate Trio*, Positive Intensity

Flack, Roberta  First Take

Frisell, Bill  Bill Frisell, Ron Carter and Paul Motian

Garland, Red  Crossings

Getz, Stan  Stan Getz and Bill Evans

Griffin, Johnny  The Kerry Dancers

Golson, Benny  Free*

Gordon, Dexter 'Round Midnight (soundtrack), The Other Side of 'Round Midnight

Hall, Jim  Live at Village West*, Alone Together, Concierto

Hancock, Herbie  (also V.S.O.P) Empyrean Isles*, Maiden Voyage*, Speak Like a Child*, V.S.O.P.* (California), V.S.O.P.* (New York), The Tempest in the Colosseum, Trio (Japan), Quartet*

Harris, Barry  Magnificent*

Harris, Eddie  The In Sound

Henderson, Joe  Mode for Joe, Tetragon*, The Kicker, Power to the People*, State of the Tenor Vol. 1*, State of the Tenor Vol. 2*

Hodges, Johnny  Three Shades of Blue*

Jackson, Milt  Invitation, Sunflower

Jones, Hank  (also The Great Jazz Trio) Kindness, Joy, Love, and Happiness*, Hanky Panky*, Milestones, Live at the Village Vanguard Vol. 1, Live at the Village Vanguard Vol. 2, Live Under the Sky

Hill, Andrew  Grass Roots, Lift Every Voice

Horn, Shirley  I Remember Miles

Horne, Lena  Lena and Michel  (with Michel Legrand) 

Hubbard, Freddie  Red Clay, Super Blue, Sky Dive, Stardust  (with Bennie Golson) 

Jobim, Antonio Carlos  Stone Flower

Kuhn, Steve  Life's Magic* 

Lewis, Mel  And Friends

Marsalis, Branford Scenes in the City, Royal Garden Blues* 

Marsalis, Wynton  Black Codes (From the Underground) 

Miller, Mulgrew  The Countdown

Montgomery, Wes  Down Here on the Ground*, A Day in the Life

Morgan, Frank  Yardbird Suite

Morgan, Lee  The Procrastinator*

Newman, David  Newmanism

Rivers, Sam  Fuchsia Swing Song, Contours

Rollins, Sonny  Now's the Time*,  Milestone Jazzstars  (with McCoy Tyner and Al Foster) 

Shorter, Wayne  Speak No Evil*, The All-Seeing Eye*, Schizophrenia, The Soothsayer

Spaulding, James  Brilliant Corners

Tolliver, Charles Paper Man*

Turrentine, Stanley On a Clear Day, Sugar, More Than a Mood

Timmons, Bobby  Born to Be Blue

Tyner, McCoy  The Real McCoy*, Extentions, Supertrios*, Trident, Fly with the Wind, Passion Dance, It's About That Time  (with Jackie McLean) 

Walton, Cedar (also Sweet Basil Trio) Heart and Soul*, Cedar Walton - Ron Carter - Jack DeJohnette, Cedar Walton Plays, Saint Thomas, My Funny Valentine

Williams, Tony Foreign Intrigue, Life Time

Depending on how you count it, this is between 120 and 140 records.  However, there's a lot more Ron Carter that I haven't paid detailed attention to: Jobim records, nearly the complete CTI catalog, endless movie scores, and various play-alongs produced by Jamey Aebersold.  Therefore, I think my off-the-cuff claim of hearing at least two hundred albums of Ron Carter is fair.

But there is no way for me to verify Ron's claim that he is on 2000+ discs.  He began recording in about 1960, so that would mean an average of 40+ records a year, which frankly seems impossible.  But he was extremely active as a session musician in the 60's, 70's and 80's.  Also, his output in Japan is a whole other chapter, including a lot of records that are little-known over here.  (UPDATE: Tom Lord's discography until 2008 lists 1104 sessions.)

I asked Reid Anderson, Ben Street, Joe Martin, and Larry Grenadier to select their favorite Ron records from the above list and mention any others that came to mind.  Special thanks to Larry for his insightful comments.

Reid, Joe, and Larry all chose the complete recordings with Miles Davis first.  (Ben just got back to me while I was posting today.  His contribution is at the bottom.) These are still Ron's best-known records.  While it is arguable that the rhythm section of Ron, Tony Williams, and Herbie Hancock has been too influential at this point (how many times have we heard bad imitations of their style?) the fact remains that they were stunningly innovative, taking the most outlandish chances and the creating the most wicked propulsion as naturally as breathing.  Larry's comment on the Miles years was "Amazingly recorded bass sound.  From 7 Steps through Plugged Nickel Ron demonstrates a new harmonic power of the instrument.  High intellect blended with extreme groove."

Reid's list had a couple of other selections, including Roberta Flack's First Take, of which Larry said, "Ron's name should be on the cover of next to Roberta's!  Also, The In Sound (Eddie Harris) is another great example of the funky R&B Ron."  Universal acclaim also went to Eric Dolphy's Far Cry, of which Larry said, "Another fantastic example of early Ron.  Plus the great pairing with Roy Haynes.  Early Ron: maybe a little suppler and a bit more daring??" 

Larry also chose all the Joe Henderson albums.  "If Joe is the Jazz Astronaut, Ron has to be the Jazz Architect."  I could not agree with Larry more.  Joe Martin also cited Power to the People and the State of the Tenor discs. 

Power to the People is one of the great jazz albums.   There is a new remastered edition, but I am not sure that it is done just right, since the piano seems too hot and overall it is over-compressed.  The LP is the one to get, although Billy Hart has the only mint copy of the gatefold original that I've ever seen - what a sweet item!  (It's a lot easier to find the Milestone LP twofer Foresight and Afterthought, which includes Power to the People.)

Another Henderson album, Tetragon, also features prime Ron, including wicked bass playing on Joe's first recording of "Invitation," which Joe would go on to play thousands of times.  It is too bad that Ron and Joe didn't do more playing together.  At 1:45 during this YouTube video there is a great shot of Ron playing while Henderson is soloing.  Ron is wearing the biggest smile I've ever seen on him.  

All the records so far cited are from the 1960's.  During the 70's Ron added a pickup to his equipment.  This changed his sonority, and some people don't like it.  (Towards the end of my interview, Ron alludes to this change when discussing Doug Watkins.)  His soulmate, Tony Williams, made a similar move at the same time, going from a small jazz kit to a huge rock-styled drum set.  Tony's change upsets the same people that are upset about Ron. 

In any decade of their music-making, Ron or Tony's decisions about their sonorities have never bothered me.  One element not always taken into account by their critics are the venues they were playing.  V.S.O.P., for example, played in stadiums.  I have seen straight-ahead jazz groups playing to crowds of 10,000 people, and it doesn’t really work.  I am not saying that great musicians don't play great wherever they are!  What I am saying is this:  unless the bassist adapts to the situation, you won't be able to hear the bass properly in a 10,000 seat venue.  The general energy level also needs to increase.  On the video I just linked to with Tony Williams, Ron Carter, Freddie Hubbard, and Joe Henderson, the energy is like that of a rock band.  The kind of groups they played with in clubs during the 1960's would shrivel up and die in comparison.  

You can always hear Ron Carter.  This is not true of every bassist.  Indeed, I will go so far as to say that Ron is the ONLY acoustic bassist I can think of where I can hear enough of him on every record and in every live situation.  I admit I also heard a duo performance at Knickerbocker's once where he was three times as loud as the pianist, and that was not good.  But as Ron says in the interview, a lot of this music comes from the bass, more than is usually recognized.  We need to hear the bass.

Joe Martin cited the V.S.O.P. California record, and Larry says of the New York date, "The opening bass line on "Eye of the Hurricane" is worthy of deep study."  During this era, Ron was one of many musicians taking the stadium perspective into small venues too.  While I adore hearing Ron and Tony play this way with Hank Jones or Tommy Flanagan, it is true that sometimes it just falls flat, for example the Milestone Jazzstars tour with Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner and Al Foster.  

That is a hard record to listen to, but there is one truly awesome Sonny/Ron track from the early sixties, "Now's the Time."  The first time I played this for Ben Street, Ben grew pale because Ron was swinging so hard.  This track, incidentally, is a good place to hear when Ron is swinging even though the drummer isn't.  (I've heard Roy McCurdy sound great, but not here.)

Ron Carter has made over 30 albums as a leader.  I cited Etudes and Uptown Conversations to Ron himself.  Joe and Larry mentioned a couple more that I've never heard: Joe's dad had Peg Leg, so it remains a sentimental favorite, and Larry praised Parade:  "My favorite Ron solo album.  Also the first one I ever bought.  Pure 80's RC with amazing bass lines." Larry also mentioned Ron's first album as leader, Where?  "Noteworthy for a great duet with George Duvivier."

These albums are where you get to hear Ron's unique voice as a composer.  His tunes are almost silly or nursery-rhyme at times, but quite endearing.  John Lewis seems to be an influence.

Additions to my list with Ron as a sideman: Wes Montgomery, So Much Guitar, Jimmy Scott, All the Way  (LG: "Ron proves on this album that less is more") and Rocky Boyd/Kenny Dorham, Ease It (LG: "More early Ron, '61.  Also a great Ron arco solo!") 

Some of these above discs are rather esoteric listens.  For the novice, after the Miles Davis and Joe Henderson records, it would be strongly suggested to hear the following Blue Note classics that would make anyone's list of "great Ron Carter":  Herbie Hancock, Speak Like a Child and Maiden Voyage, Lee Morgan, The Procrastinator, McCoy Tyner, The Real McCoy, and Wayne Shorter, Speak No Evil.  These are some of the best albums by the greatest jazz musicians, and on each of them Ron is a vital component.  With the exception of the The Real McCoy, these albums also explore the Ron Carter/Herbie Hancock relationship outside of their work with Miles Davis.  It's quite different but still extraordinary.

For the dedicated Ron Carter fanatic, there is an area worth investigating from about 1968 to 1971.  These may not always be the very best albums overall, but Ron is right on the tipping point between his old sonority and the new one, and it is quite magical sonority.  Larry:  "It's more direct but still all microphone" (as compared to with a pick-up).  This period consists of stuff like the Wes Montgomery CTI discs Down Here On the Ground and A Day In the Life, Johnny Hodges' Three Shades of Blue, Ron's own album Uptown Conversations and Barry Harris' Magnificent!  There's something about the sound of the bass on the albums from this era which is really superb. 

The other area to really geek out on is Ron's relationship to different drummers.  Compare Ron and Billy Higgins on the 1960's The Procrastinator to the 1990's Stanley Turrentine date More Than a Mood.  The classic 60's dates with Roy Haynes like Far Cry are wonderful but Roy sounds pretty weird on a rock kit with Tommy Flanagan on the 70's Positive Intensity.  What about Joe Chambers, Tootie Heath, Louis Hayes, Ben Riley, Grady Tate, Mel Lewis, Dom Um Romao, or Al Foster with Ron? (Carter and Foster is a favorite combination of mine.) The one Jamey Aebersold play-along I have kept around is the Herbie Hancock volume, since it is a rare example of Ron and Billy Hart playing time together (Kenny Barron is the pianist).  H'mm: Ron head-to-head with Jack DeJohnette on the Joe Henderson albums or with Cedar Walton? Pretty goddamn swinging! And of course the crucial discs with Elvin Jones and Tony Williams, the two strongest jazz drummers, but two drummers who couldn't play the beat more differently.  Listening carefully to how Ron Carter interfaces with all these drummers -- and the younger generation too, like Kenny Washington, Jeff Watts, Lewis Nash, Carl Allen, "Smitty" Smith -- is relevant to a detailed decoding of this music.  I am sure that all those drummers, young or old, would agree.

Addendum: Just as I was putting the finishing touches on this post, Ben Street responded.  I was relieved to hear from him, since I have discussed Ron more with him than anybody else.  I love his support of "the CTI Ron" below!

Hi Ethan,  It’s mainly specific tracks that come to mind, sorry I haven’t had time to do this properly.  I know once I’m done moving and everything else and can go through my records I’m going to be pissed!  Here’s a few things........ 

Roberta Flack  - "Compared To What"  from First Take
Sonny Rollins  - "Now’s The Time"  from Now's The Time
Aretha Franklin - "River's Invitation" from Soul '69
Wes Montgomery - "The Thumb" from Tequila
Everything with JOBIM!!!!!!! - Wave, Tide, Stone Flower
Herbie Hancock - Speak Like A Child
Joe Henderson - "Invitation" from Tetragon, "Lazy Afternoon" from   Power to the People
Wynton Marsalis - Hot House Flowers
Steve Kuhn - Life's Magic
Hubert Laws - The Rite Of Spring, Afro Classics, Morning Star
Milt Jackson - Sunflower

Thanks again to four great bassists, Reid, Joe, Larry, and Ben, for their help on this post.