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1 ) “Shadow of Your Smile” by Eddie Harris (from the In Sound)
Oh. My. God. Ron + Cedar Walton + Billy Higgins + this arrangement = quite possibly the hardest swinging 5 and a half minutes I have ever heard.
2 ) “Riot” by Herbie Hancock (from Speak Like a Child)
One of the best mixes I’ve ever heard of freedom and structure, and Ron and Mickey Roker swing like crazy aside Herbie. Ron’s playing is incredibly inventive, as illuminated further by the alternate takes on the CD reissue.
3 ) “Nefertiti” by Miles Davis (from Nefertiti)
Perhaps the definitive example of the 60s Miles rhythm section.
4 ) “Isotope” by Joe Henderson (from Power to the People)
The whole track is great (including some of my favorite Jack DeJohnette), but the trading section between Ron and Herbie is just mind-blowing.
5 ) “The Prisoner” by Gil Scott-Heron (From Pieces of A Man)
While “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is better known (and deserves to be even better-known than it is – check out the playing of Ron, Bernard Purdie and Hubert Laws along with Gil’s revolutionary proto-rap), Ron’s haunting acoustic bass is just perfect on this disturbing and beautiful track. This could’ve been in the “guest” category, but I don’t know whether Gil is a jazz artist or not, frankly – a case could be (and has been) made either way.
6 ) “Beatrice” by Sam Rivers (from Fuchsia Swing Song)
This song is hard to categorize, but is one of the most beautiful tracks (to my ears) in the Blue Note catalog. And it’s always great to hear Ron and Jaki Byard together.
7 ) “Dolphin Dance” by Herbie Hancock (from Maiden Voyage)
I was in college I had a close friend who hated jazz, especially modern jazz (picture two inebriated dudes arguing about who was more important, the Beatles or Louis Armstrong, and you get the picture). Several times I tried to explain the nuances of the music to him, and one day it finally worked. The vehicle on that occasion was listening to “Dolphin Dance” and the way the energy develops on each solo . . . and then going back and observing the stuff that Ron plays at the heart of it (which a casual listener probably wouldn’t otherwise notice). My friend didn’t immediately go out and buy the record or anything, but theswitch finally flipped.
8 ) “La Nevada” by Gil Evans (from Out of the Cool)
This is easily one of the most swinging tracks in the Gil Evans lexicon. Thanks Ron!
9 ) “Lucky Southern” by Airto (from Free)
The all-star band on this track revolves around featured soloist and composer Keith Jarrett. Ron is reliably solid on the bottom end on one of the catchiest and most puzzlingly underrated samba performances in modern jazz.
10 ) “Softly As In A Morning Sunrise” (live) by Bobby Timmons (from In Person: Live at the Village Vanguard)
Still in the early stages of his career (well before landing the gig with Miles), Ron is given a well-earned feature spot on this ridiculously swinging track.