Ever since Charlie "Bird" Parker recorded his first Charlie Parker With Strings sessions in 1949 and 1950, jazz artists have hoped to enjoy the backing of lush string orchestras. But most will never get the chance because of the expense; it's a lot easier to pay four or five musicians than 15, 20, or 25. Ron Carter, however, did fulfill that dream in the late '70s and early '80s -- first on 1978's Pick 'Em, then on 1981's Super Strings. In 2001, Fantasy reissued those Milestone dates back to back on this 78-minute CD. Typically, a jazz-with-strings project will emphasize overdone standards, but Carter's own material dominates this CD; the only tunes that he didn't write are Gordon Parks' "Don't Misunderstand" and Miles Davis' "All Blues." Carter's composing is solid throughout, and the material he provides ranges from introspective ballads ("Tranquil," "Opus 2") to a funky, gospel-minded offering ("Uptown Conversation") and a melodic, Brazilian-flavored piece ("Bom Dia"). Meanwhile, "Eight" is a modal number that is obviously based on John Coltrane's "Impressions" and Miles Davis' "So What." Parts of the CD swing hard, and parts are unapologetically lush -- nonetheless, Carter maintains his integrity and avoids getting into elevator muzak. The bassist obviously realizes that lush doesn't have to mean muzak. Although not among Carter's essential CDs, Pick 'Em/Super Strings is an enjoyable disc that will appeal to those who have a taste for lavish orchestral jazz.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson