Jazz Icon Ron Carter

Jazz musicians are known for being a dapper and frequently recorded bunch, which is why becoming one of the most-recorded and best-dressed jazz musicians alive is no mean feat. And Ron Carter managed to do it all while standing behind an upright bass.

He came to fame as part of Miles Davis’s Second Great Quintet (where one Herbie Hancock also got his start)—and went on to record some 2,500 records on the double bass. Along the way, he played with everyone from Eric Dolphy to A Tribe Called Quest, won acclaim as a cellist, composed about 140 songs, taught at CUNY and Juilliard, and—just for good measure—developed a custom blend of pipe tobacco.

But prolificacy alone does not an icon make.

In the midst of all that recording, Carter earned the reputation as one of jazz’s notorious clotheshorses—known for buying ties and pocket squares for members of his bands. He spent the ’70s exemplifying the kind of laid-back-but-refined style you might also have seen on Marvin Gaye around that time—except lankier and something like a foot taller, with a pipe forever clamped in one side of his jaw.

Now in his 70s, Carter’s still bringing a refined, old-school aesthetic to bandstands everywhere (in fact, he’s playing tonight at New York’s Blue Note). These days, he’s aged into a distinctively tweedy elder-statesman vibe, favoring Dunhill pipes and custom suits from Paul Stuart and Frank Stella.

We endorse it all—from bespoke Paul Stuart to indefatigability—except the pipe smoking. Our lawyers would prefer that we did not endorse pipe smoking.

But if you were going to do it anyway, you’d do well to channel this guy.


—A.H.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Alex Heigl