Bob Carter

Biography by

The bassist and orchestrator Bob Carter had without a doubt the longest career among at least a half dozen jazz musicians with this name. In terms of recording, he began an extensive series of credits…
Read Full Biography

Artist Biography by

The bassist and orchestrator Bob Carter had without a doubt the longest career among at least a half dozen jazz musicians with this name. In terms of recording, he began an extensive series of credits in 1946. Twenty-three years later he had played on nearly 50 records, a point at which his musical activities began to taper. The man in the picture looks Hawaiian and he certainly was: Carter's real name was Robert Kahakalau. He learned both the guitar and bass from his father, who among other musical activities was an instructor in Hawaiian music. Though noted as a participant in modern jazz sides with players such as Charlie Ventura and Red Norvo, Carter played Hawaiian music himself as well as rhythm and blues. When he relocated to Honolulu in the '50s, he began working with orchestras performing not only the 'aloha' sound but styles from Japan, Korea and the Philippines.

All told it makes Carter one of the more culturally diverse bassists in the history of jazz.

Flexibility had certainly been part of the vaudeville music tradition, and a main revenue source of the Kahakalau family when the bassist was growing up in the '30s. By 1937 he was playing with his father's ensembles in the Boston area, then began touring on his own in the next decade, making a few waves with his own trio on the Boston jazz scene circa 1944. Later that year and most of the next he followed orders from Uncle Sam, a discipline he brushed aside upon resuming civilian life, hanging out in New York City's 52nd Street clubs and becoming involved with the new bebop style. Carter worked with the movement's messiahs, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. For two years beginning in 1947 he toured and recorded with Ventura, then returned to work with that artist again in 1953 and 1954.

Carter studied both composition and arranging as he ventured forth from the second round with Ventura. He studied in California with Wesley LaViolette; Norvo and other bandleaders such as drummer Shelly Manne began featuring Carter's arrangements in the second half of the '50s. The previously mentioned Honolulu hiatus was followed in 1958 by a return to New York City where Carter was largely associated with trumpeter Bobby Hackett. The bassist should not be confused with, among others, the pianist Bob Carter.