Interview: Bassist Kent Carter on the East Coast Jazz Scene in the Sixties, New Projects, and Recording Plaything in 2014 with Bill Elgart and Gianni Lenoci

Kent Carter has been playing bass since the late Fifties, debuting on Paul Bley’s Touching album in 1965. Born in New Hampshire and raised in Vermont, Carter attended the Berklee College Of Music near Boston, Massachusetts in the late 1950s-early 1960s, playing with pianist Lowell Davidson and drummer Bill Elgart among others. Kent Carter later moved to New York City where he was soon jamming with the Jazz Composers Orchestra. In the mid-Sixties, he moved to Europe where he worked with artists including Barry Altschul, Han Bennink, Carla Bley, Paul Bley, Don Cherry, Steve Lacy, Enrico Rava, Max Roach, Roswell Rudd, and Mal Waldron, to name a few. In the Seventies, Carter was in TOK, a trio with Takashi Kako and Oliver Johnson, in addition to forming his own group with Carlos Zingaro and François Dreno.

Kent Carter (photo by Albrecht Maurer)
Kent Carter (photo by Albrecht Maurer)

In 1978, Carter and fellow American expatriates Bill Elgart, Roger Jannotta, and Tom van der Geld recorded Patience, the second album by Children At Play. In the Eighties, Kent Carter and his wife choreographer and dancer Michala Marcus formed MAD, a music, arts and dance studio–the couple currently has a similar group: Dans L’Instant. In the early 1990s, German pianist-organist Bernd Köppen formed a trio with Carter and Elgart, releasing The Suffering Of The Working Class in 1996. Three years later, Köppen, Carter, Elgart, German trombonist Günther Heinz, and Swiss clarinetist Claudio Puntin released the Live At Neue Kirche Wuppertal 12.06.1999 album. In 2010, Carter, Egart, and Köppen, along with saxophonist Andreas Bär, released Einundsechzigvierzig. In 2014, Kent Carter and Bill Elgart’s fifth album together, Plaything, with pianist Gianni Lenoci, was released on vinyl by NoBusiness Records and as a digital download from Silta Records.

The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra in New York City in the mid-1960s

Blue Note: Is it true you invited Bill Elgart to play with Carla Bley’s band at a concert at the Jazz Composer’s Guild in New York City in 1964.

Kent Carter: Yes, I suggested she check him out. I felt he just belonged in that band, in that whole scene really.

The Jazz Composer's Orchestra - Communication (1966) Fontana
The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra – Communication (1966) Fontana

On 10 April 1965 the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra performed “Communication #5,” live at the Contemporary Center in New York City.

The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra’s “Communication No. 5,” featuring Jimmy Lyons, Ken McIntyre, and Robin Kenyatta on alto saxophone, Fred Pirtle on baritone sax, Kent Carter and Steve Swallow on bass, Barry Altschul and Milford Graves on drums, Paul Bley on piano, Steve Lacy on soprano sax, Bob Carducci on tenor sax, Roswell Rudd on trombone, and Mike Mantler and Ray Codrington on trumpet, is on YouTube:

“… a new musical experience was under way.”

BN: When did you first meet Bill Elgart? Was it those days in New York City, or sometime before such as at the Berklee School of Music in Massachusetts?

KC: I would say 61 or 62 in Boston. He was one of the first drummers I played with in Boston. I was taking some courses at Berklee and Michael Mantler asked me to join a rehearsal at Bill’s home, with Lowell Davidson. This was in preparation for a concert at Harvard University. Lowell was a student in Bio Chemistry there. This was a very interesting meeting and a new musical experience was under way.

Paul Bley Trio – Touching (1965) Fontana
Paul Bley Trio – Touching (1965) Fontana

In 1965, Kent Carter made his vinyl debut on Paul Bley’s Touching album–Bill Elgart also made his first album with Bley, on the 1968 album Mr. Joy.

In March of the same year, bassist Kent Carter and drummer Dannee Fullerton joined pianist Keith Jarrett on a home recording of “Tangerine” made at the private residence in Winchester, Massachusetts:

Engineer Ted Knowlton detailed account of this historic recording, including a downloadable MP3 file, is HERE.

Tom van der Geld and Children At Play’s Patience

More than a decade later, Carter and Elgart crossed paths again, along with fellow American expatriates Roger Jannotta and Tom van der Geld to record Patience, the second album by Children At Play.

Tom van der Geld and Children At Play – Patience (1978) ECM Records
Tom van der Geld and Children At Play – Patience (1978) ECM Records

BN: Was Patience the first time you and Bill Elgart appeared on vinyl together? Do you recall any highlights making that album in Ludwigsburg and performing together around the same time period?

KC: Bill and I where both living in Europe – I in Paris and he was in Austria playing with Children At Play. Bill contacted me to join the group.

I was very pleased to meet up again with him and the music was nice. We were preparing to record with ECM.

Kent Carter in the early 1980s from the Masahiko Togashi Trio's Spiritual Moments (1981) Paddle Wheel LP insert (found on inconstant sol)
Kent Carter from the Masahiko Togashi Trio’s 1981 Spiritual Moments LP–reissued by King Records in CD in 2012 (found on inconstant sol)

Three Albums with Bernd Köppen and Bill Elgart

In the early 1990s, German pianist-organist Bernd Köppen formed a trio with bassist Kent Carter and Bill Elgart and later released The Suffering Of The Working Class in 1996 on Germany’s AHO Recording label. Music from the group also appears on the 2006 Sounds Like Whoopataal compilation.

Bernd Köppen Trio – The Suffering Of The Working Class (1996) AHO Recording
Bernd Köppen Trio – The Suffering Of The Working Class (1996) AHO Recording

BN: How did this project come together?

KC: Bernd and I had been playing projects together before. When he had the idea to do a trio I suggested Bill and it was a very wise  choice all around.

Bernd Köppen Trio – The Suffering Of The Working Class (1996) AHO Recording back
Bernd Köppen Trio – The Suffering Of The Working Class (1996) AHO Recording back

The sound of this album is quite interesting. It has to do with the hall and how we set up. I remember there was a stage with the piano and also where I played but the drums we set up in the middle of the hall for some help in the separation. The result is special. I like the space it creates in the sound.

Various Artists – Sounds Like Whoopataal (2006)
Various Artists – Sounds Like Whoopataal (2006)

In 1999, Kent Carter, Bill Egart, and Bernd Köppen, joined German trombonist Günther Heinz and Swiss clarinetist Claudio Puntin on the album Live At Neue Kirche Wuppertal 12.06.1999.

b.k. structures – Live At Neue Kirche Wuppertal 12.06.1999 (1999)
b.k. structures – Live At Neue Kirche Wuppertal 12.06.1999 (1999)

BN: What is the story behind this hard-to-find album? Any chance of a reissue as either a CD and/or as a digital download?

KC: I love this concert. Bernd organized this meeting for my 60th birthday. It was a great birthday gift. I have always wanted this concert to be a record. I asked Bernd about this. I think he was not in a position to release it. I would like to put this out myself someday soon. I asked B.K. and he said okay. The sound is excellent with a very creative tone master, Andreas Gernemann.

In 2010, Kent Carter, Bill Egart, and Bernd Köppen got together again, along with saxophonist Andreas Bär, to record Einundsechzigvierzig for Germany’s SENTI Records.

Köppenbär With Kent Carter and Bill Elgart – Einundsechzigvierzig (2010) SENTI Records
Köppenbär With Kent Carter and Bill Elgart – Einundsechzigvierzig (2010) SENTI Records

Unfortunately, this CD is not easy to find.

Kent Carter and Gianni Lenoci 0n Free Fall

The same year, Kent Carter recorded another album, Freefall. The Setola Di Maiale release features Gianni Lenoci on piano, Carter on double bass, and Marcello Magliocchi on drums.

The album includes Annette Peacock’s “Mr. Joy” and “Touching,” a composition Kent Carter, pianist Paul Bley, and drummer Barry Altschul first recorded in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1965 for the Paul Bley Trio’s Touching album.

Gianni Lenoci - Kent Carter - Marcello Magliocchi – Free Fall (2010) Setola di Maiale
Gianni Lenoci – Kent Carter – Marcello Magliocchi – Free Fall (2010) Setola di Maiale

BN: I’m interested about your return to “Touching,” an Annette Peacock composition, you did on your first album. Was this your idea? Any insights regarding how you have evolved as an artist and the feeling of revisiting a song 45 years later, at a different stage of your personal and artistic life?

KC: Annette Peacock wrote intriguing material in this period with Paul Bley. My fascination of these pieces is due to the depth of the composer. They are not easy to play – not obvious but musically engaging and an emotional challenge. Gianni also has this feeling about her work and the way Paul approached it was beautiful.

The title track, featuring Kent Carter on bass, Gianni Lenoci on piano, and Marcello Magliocchi on drums, is on SoundCloud:

Gianni Lenoci – Kent Carter – Bill Elgart’s Plaything

In 2014, pianist Gianni Lenoci, bassist Kent Carter, and drummer Bill Elgart’s released Plaything on Lithuania’s NoBusiness Records (LP) and Italy’s Silta Records (Download).

Gianni Lenoci - Kent Carter - Bill Elgart - Plaything (2014) NoBusiness Records
Gianni Lenoci – Kent Carter – Bill Elgart – Plaything (2014) NoBusiness Records/Silta Records

BN: How did the Plaything project come about?

KC: Gianni invited me to come to the school in Monopoli, Italy to do a workshop with his orchestra. I wrote a piece and we worked on it for a week, along with a composition of Gianni’s. It was a wonderful week for me. The students were exceptional and very creative with lots of musical energy. We performed the works at the end of the workshop. It went very well. Gianni and I talked about future projects together and we came up with this recording date, the Plaything session.

BN: Did you also produce it?

Yes, I was the producer. The album was recorded here in Studio Juillaguet [in the southwest of France], with a good engineer, Ananda Cherer from Toulouse.

A video for Bill Elgart’s “Drift,” with Kent Carter on bass, Gianni Lenoci on piano, and Elgart on drums, is here:

BN: What’s the relationship between your “Plaything” composition on the new album of the same name released by Lithuania’s NoBusiness Records and Italy’s Silta Records, and the piece of the same name you wrote earlier? Is it the same composition?

KC: Yes, it’s just another version. This tune is like my signature tune. I wrote it for Paul Bley. I think now I might give it a rest.

Kent Carter at the Plaything LP recording session
Kent Carter at the Plaything LP recording session in 2014

A pair of tracks from Plaything are on SoundCloud including Gianni Lenoci’s “Contusion” and Kent Carter’s “Plaything.”

Kent Carter’s latest interpretation of his original composition first written for Paul Bley, “Plaything,” featuring Gianni Lenoci on piano (left), Kent Carter on bass (center), and Bill Elgart on drums (right), is on SoundCloud:

Kent Carter, Gianni Lenoci, and Jeff Boudreaux Live in 2014

BN: Will the trio support the new release with any performances?

KC: We so far have done one gig at the Saint Music Festival in the southwest of France. Bill was not free on this date so we used Jeff Boudreaux, a drummer from Paris. Bill, Gianni and myself would love to do more concerts if the conditions are right.

On 11 July 2014 Radio France broadcast a full live set from Abbaye aux Dames in Saintes featuring Kent Carter on bass, Gianni Lenoci on piano, and Jeff Boudreaux on drums. Compositions include:

  • Ictus (C. Bley)
  • September (G. Lenoci)
  • It Will Come (K. Carter)
  • Vashkar (C. Bley)
  • The Tune (K. Carter)
  • Ida Lupino (C. Bley)
  • Kretek (G. Lenoci)

Listen to the full concert on YouTube:

Kent Carter String Trio

In 2006, the Kent Carter String Trio released Intersections on U.K. label Emanem. The 9-track album of improvisations recorded in three sessions in studios in France and Germany between 2004 and 2005 features Kent Carter on double bass, Albrecht Maurer on violin, and Katrin Mickiewicz on viola.

Kent Carter String Trio – Intersections (2006) Emanem
Kent Carter String Trio – Intersections (2006) Emanem

Three tracks from Intersections, “Blithe,” “Blues Suite,” and “Intentions #1,” are on MySpace.

An audio track for a fourth composition from the album, “In The Mean Time,” is on SoundCloud:

“Choeur de Bras” by Carter, Michala Marcus, and Odile Pellissier

BN: Are there any more upcoming musical projects with Bill Elgart in the pipeline you can comment on?

KC: I have a few ideas but nothing set yet.

BN: Besides this new album, what are you working on?

KC: At this moment I am preparing a performance with my wife [noted Danish choreographer and dancer Michala Marcus] and four musicians for the 21st of September.

“Choer de Bras,” an earlier example of the work of Cie D.M. I. (Danse Musique Image) created for le Prieuré de Rauzet in Charente, France features Odile Pellissier on visuals, Kent Carter on music, and Michala Marcus on choreography:

Northern New England to Southwest France

BN: It seems quite a few of New England’s most talented jazz players have migrated to Europe. What was your thinking when you relocated from America? Have you had a chance to return to New York City recently?

KC: I left the U.S. because it was time for me to grow up and continue my artistic development, which had become almost impossible for me to do in the States. And now after living abroad for so many years, I’ve become accustomed to the European lifestyle and values. I think the last time I was in N.Y.C. was about close to ten years ago.

a recent shot of Kent Carter
a recent shot of Kent Carter

BN: Besides performing and composing music for theater and film, including next month’s performance, do you still find time for teaching these days?

KC: I love to teach. In fact, my current schedule will allow me to take on interested students starting this fall, something I am looking forward to.

Kent Carter currently lives in a small village of approximately 100 inhabitants in the southwest of France, just south of Charente. When not at home, there’s a good bet he can be found at the studio he and his wife run, Studio Juillaguet, located in the village of the same name.

recording equipment at Studio Juillaguet
recording equipment at Studio Juillaguet

Romanité,” a film about the meeting of three artistic practices: Dance, Music, and Photos and Images, performed in various Romanesque churches in Charente, France in 2012 features images by Odile Pelllissier, dance choreography by Michala Marcus, and music by Kent Carter, part of the Festival des Nuits Romanes in Charente:

More Music From Kent Carter

In January 1975, Berlin Concert, an album by alto saxophone player Noah Howard featuring Kent Carter on double bass, Takashi Kako on piano, Lamont Hampton on percussion, and Oliver Johnson on drums was recorded at the Quartier Latin in Berlin, Germany.

Noah Howard Group – Berlin Concert (1977)
Noah Howard Group – Berlin Concert (1977)

Released in vinyl in 1977 but never in CD, a digital download is now available from bandcamp in a variety of formats including 320k MP3 and FLAC. Listen to the entire album–as well as purchase it HERE.

Roswell Rudd - Steve Lacy - Misha Mengelberg - Kent Carter - Han Bennink - Regeneration (1983) Soul Note
Roswell Rudd – Steve Lacy – Misha Mengelberg – Kent Carter – Han Bennink – Regeneration (1983) Soul Note

In June 1982, Kent Carter joined trombonist Roswell Rudd, soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, pianist Mischa Mengelberg, and drummer Han Bennik to record Regeneration at Barigozzi Studio in Milano.

Roswell Rudd - Steve Lacy - Misha Mengelberg - Kent Carter - Han Bennink - Regeneration (1983) Soul Note back
Roswell Rudd – Steve Lacy – Misha Mengelberg – Kent Carter – Han Bennink – Regeneration (1983) Soul Note back

The Soul Note LP was later reissued in CD and is now available as a digital download.

Thelonious Monk’s “Epistrophy,” the sixth track on Regeneration, is on YouTube:

In November 1992, drummer John Stevens, electric guitarist Derek Bailey, and bassist Kent Carter recorded One Time in Leicester, England.

John Stevens, Kent Carter, Derek Bailey – One Time (1992) Incus Records
John Stevens, Kent Carter, Derek Bailey – One Time (1992) Incus Records

The album is currently available in CD format from the Incus Records.

“Not A Dry Glass In The House,” the fifth cut from One Time, is here:

References

All About Jazz

Allmusic

Discogs

Wikipedia

On 2 April 1966, The Jazz Realities, a group composed of pianist Carla Bley, bassist Kent Carter, soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, trumpeter Michael Mantler, and drummer Aldo Romano performed live at Lila Eule in Bremen, Germany. An MP3 download of the FM broadcast of this recording featuring seven compositions of Carla Bley is currently available at the amazing BigO website.

The Jazz Realities – Lila Eule, Bremen, Germany 1966 [Unreleased]
The Jazz Realities – Lila Eule, Bremen, Germany 1966
Another performance by Carla Bley’s Jazz Realities recorded in Paris in 1966 for ORTF features most of the same musicians except Peter Brotzman plays tenor sax in place of Steve Lacy and bassist Peter Kowald for Kent Carter on the first five tracks. However, “Closer,” the sixth track, features the same quintet above: Carla Bley, Kent Carter, Steve Lacy, Michael Mantler, and Aldo Romano, recorded in the Netherlands in 1966. This MP3 is found at the Mohaoffbeat site.

In 1977, a series of concerts by a group known as The Jazz Workshop was performed in Italy, including in Cremona, Milano, and Modena. The all-star lineup included Roberto Ballatalla and Kent Carter on bass, Steve Lacy and Evan Parker on soprano saxophone, Gaetano Liguori on piano, Filippo Monico and Tony Oxley on drums, Enrico Rava on trumpet, Paul Rutherford and Danilo Terenzi on trombone, and Massimo Urbani on alto saxophone–Oxley also did the electronics.

The Jazz Workshop
The Jazz Workshop

A private recording made in Cremona 6 September 1977 featuring seven complete pieces plus one partial, nearly 90 minutes of music in total, is at the Inconstant Sol website. Thanks to the person who has graciously just re-upped this performance–and to the Jazz From Italy site which linked to the original post containing the downloadable FLAC files.

Gianni Lenoci, Kent Carter, and Bill Elgart in 2014
Gianni Lenoci, Kent Carter, and Bill Elgart in 2014

This article initially appeared 28 August 2014 on http://hapsnowswhirlwinds.com, which spawned Bill’s Blue Note as well as sister site http://the6thdimension.com.

Author: Formosa Coweater

writer based in the Pacific Rim

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