Ron Carter, Dear Miles (Blue Note)

Dear Miles exhibits all of the artistry and polish one would expect from jazz icon Ron Carter, yet it remains a puzzling album. Ostensibly a tribute to the bassist’s former bandleader, it’s a curious homage with precisely one Miles Davis composition on the entire record. The rest are tunes “associated” with Miles, including a number of standards and a few Ron Carter originals. However, there’s nothing Miles-ish about the straight-ahead, conventional approach taken to these songs.

Predictably, the album swings, it grooves, it has a pocket the size of Manhattan. “Stella by Starlight” makes for a beautiful bass feature, displaying Carter’s pure tone, and Payton Crossley’s melodic drumming lights up quicker tunes like “Gone” and “Cut and Paste.” The arrangements are meticulously performed, and the creativity and skill of all four musicians comes through cleanly on Dear Miles.

It’s a shame then that while the album is so masterful, it is also poorly conceived. Roger Squitero’s assorted percussion is in places a poor fit for such a conservative outing, and seems like an arbitrary addition. But the bigger issue is the disparity between the record’s raison d’etre and the music itself. These problems keep Carter’s newest effort from being one of his best.