In 1968, having completed a five-year stint with Miles Davis, Ron Carter's career was wide open. Finding himself in typically high demand, the bassist decided not to make any long-term commitments (though he continued to join individual recording dates), opting instead to develop his solo career. In 1971, he released Uptown Conversation (Atlantic). Shortly after, he signed to the CTI label, releasing Blues Farm in 1973. The bass is rarely found in such a prominent role, its melodic qualities typically being subordinate to rhythmic ones. The presence of a pianist, guitarist, and two percussionists on Blues Farm frees Carter to explore both realms. Working with Davis was obviously a valuable experience. On numbers like "Footprints" (from Miles Smiles, 1965), Carter was required to extend and compress time, a technique that is second nature to him on Blues Farm. Dense, dexterous runs are broken up by long, bending lines and shades of blues phrasing, all executed with absolute grace. His playing becomes slightly imposing on "Django." While it's great to hear him lead the group on a tour through the song's shifting rhythms, the accompanists aren't allowed much space. Carter's playing is best when more deeply integrated. On the title track, he engages in a wonderful exchange with flutist Hubert Laws, with the two swapping solos back and forth. On "Hymn for Him," his probing lines enrich the song, pushing its narrative forward. The best comes last as the group rides "R2, M1" to the album's conclusion. The song subsists largely on the group's energy (the most they display outwardly on the album) and Carter's deep, repetitious groove. Unfortunately, great musicianship does not always make for compelling results. Blues Farm's excursions are enjoyable, but somewhat reserved. Both the compositions and performances avoid strong emotions in favor of pleasing palettes of color and texture. The early-'70s production values only enhance this by softening the bed of musical tones. The resulting polish tranquilizes the sound and ultimately dates the album.
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AllMusic Review by Nathan Bush