Remembering Bruce Carter
Yesterday, I went to Bruce Carter's funeral at Vancouver Avenue Baptist Church, and it was a full house and a testement to the wide respect that he generated with his playing and his genial atmosphere.
I think that he entered his house 'justified' , as Sam Peckinpah would have put it.
Just the sheer number of musicians, and the number of drummers of all disciplines were on hand to pay their respects to someone who rightly deserves that and more from his peers. The church was steamy with many bodies packed in and settling in for what would unfold in more than three hours of service. Many spoken tributes from all walks of PDX's musical family were given, and some were hilariously long in the tooth with their commentary.
Rightfully so, all was forgiven in the spirit of Bruce's memory.
Also spoken were some of the names of Portland's past musical glories...The Soulmasters, Portland Junk, Slickaphonics, The Gangsters...these were some of the names spoken to the gathering that evoked the long history of music in the NE Portland area.
Saxophonist Kenny G, Bruce's employer for many years, recalled during his touching eulogy that he personally had played with BC for a total of about 20 years, counting their shared stint with The Jeff Lorber Fusion.
His postulation that it never felt the same when he was forced to play with other drummers while BC was recovering from some form of malady in the later years and could not tour, was a shared knowledge in the room of his command over the groove.
Bruce Carter was a mountain of a guy, and even more so, a mountain of talent behind a drumset.
Fearsome chops melded with a killer groove, and there you would have BC.
The rhythmic impression he left you with was a satisfied devastation.
WIthin many albums featuring his long-time commrades, the band PLEASURE, BC guided that juggernaut of Funk Music around with aplomb and style.
Remember this fact... PLEASURE predated Earth, Wind, & Fire with it's heady blend of soulful vocals mixed with instrumentaists who were thinking forward with their creativity and groove.
In honor of Bruce, I have decided to post the newsnet tribute that I put up on rec.musicmakers.percussion for your perusal, and the link for the original Portland Oregonian story is contained in the first post from me.
There is also a second tribute from Marty Hughley, which will make itself available in the September archives of this blog.
Many condolences to Esther, his wife, and Bruce Jr., his son.
We all will miss him.....
From: soulbol - view profile
Date: Mon, Aug 14 2006 8:56 pm
This is not the happiest of times in Portland amongst us drummers right
The wonderful, mighty player Bruce Carter, who played drums with the
pioneering soul/funk band Pleasure in the 1970's, then went on to have
a long time stint with Kenny G, was lost to us from a heart attack last
I thought that someone should at least post something, just to let
people know that he is gone, in case some of you were familiar with his
I will post the link to the obit story that came out yesterday.
From: Ed Pierce - view profile
Date: Mon, Aug 14 2006 9:21 pm
Email: "Ed Pierce"
soulbol wrote: > This is not the happiest of times in Portland amongst us drummers right > now....
Wow, I was unaware of that. That is very sad news. For those not
familiar with Carter, his prowess is well nigh legendary in the
Portland area. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to see him play
live. Sean Foote (Linda Hornbuckle's bassist) told me a few months ago
that Bruce had been playing with the band recently, so I was hoping to
get a chance to catch him soon; now I'll never get a chance.
I've heard numerous great things about Bruce Carter from Portland
musicians over the years, but the one I most remember was from
guitarist Jay Koder--in his words, Bruce was simply "bad to the bone."
Thanks for posting this.
From: mo - view profile
Date: Tues, Aug 15 2006 7:21 am
f---, that sucks.....
anyone who knows his funk/pocket drummers knows that he was a nasty
mofo. i'll have to play some pleasure today as a tribute.
thanks for letting us know
From: soulbol - view profile
Date: Tues, Aug 15 2006 11:14 am
I am truly sorry that you missed out on hearing Bruce, and just what a
sonic force he was...here is a couple of stories to tell of his great
Recently, I heard a story from Louis Pain here in town about when Carlos Santana was in town for a performance, and Dennis Chambers was feeling under the weather that evening,
and Dennis (who was good friends with BC from a long way back) tried to get
him to come down and sub for him.
No kidding here. That story has been around for a bit...
and eventually I met Dennis out and about on the road, and the first thing out of his mouth when he found that I was from Portland was " You're from
Portland...where is that big-headed joker Bruce Carter at?????"
After many guffaws on that one. It made me happy that BC had continued to
touch people, even though his profile was not the biggest (even playing
with Kenny G. could'nt clue people into how massive his playing was
when most of the night, it was rimclicks to make the rent with that
I think that in later years Bruce got to solo on Kenny G's gig, but as I
remember the effect he had with his playing....
It was like seeing Dennis C. with Mike Stern in Amsterdam one time, and after 2 encores, the third was Dennis coming out by himself, and soloing to move mountains,
and to basically shut the audience up and send them home ga ga.....
Bruce was just like, and truly ALL of that...
I do remember hearing Pleasure (a band that virtually predated Earth, Wind, &
Fire, doing the style of music they played) at a place called the Town
Hall in N. Portland many years ago (the early 70s, during their heyday),
and these guys would play their original tunes (from their debut album on Fantasy Records called "Dust Yourself Off"), turn around on a dime and cover stuff like Shake
Your Booty, Skin Tight, Butterfly (Herbie Hancock) and other choice funk stuff from that era.
Gotta pay the rent....
Then when you think that they really couldn't top that...
They would cover something like "Crisis" by Freddie Hubbard, and go
between the latin/swing feels on that song, just minutes after they
filled the dance floor with people.
I guess you got to keep the pimps in the audience happy also with the
crazy stuff :)
The world was at a time when they could handle the musical mix from these guys.
BC's drumhead choice during those years and beyond...clear Remo Ambassador
heads...top and bottom !!!
He would get this great, wide open smack with this combo.
He played Pin Stripes later on in life, but he was like Steve Gadd in the manner
that only those guys could get a great sound out of those beasts playing Jazz and Funk....
I sure could not do it :)
One more story....
I remember the great local Portland band "Cool 'R" that BC and Nathaniel
Phillips (bass player from Pleasure-the two had the "hook up" really
heavy) both played in for a few years, and hearing them cover the song "Tears" by Missing Persons...
... the signature beat (that Bruce copied from the Terry Bozzio part) still gives me chills
and to see in my mind's eye BC just rockin' out and really aping that part gives me a smile.
He always had that skill to get to what the essence of the moment was,
and the music...to make it breathe and FEEL SO DAMN GOOD!!!
I am sorry that he is gone, and will miss him truly. He always had a kind word for me, and to others.
Aspiring drummers, do your homework on this guy...he is most certainly part of the true lineage of influential players you should know, and it is my true hope that he will live on through this rememberence.
From: Kevin Johnson & Debra Grace-Johnson - view profile
Date: Tues, Aug 15 2006 2:22 pm
Email: "Kevin Johnson & Debra Grace-Johnson"
Man, I am soooo very sorry to hear that.
I'll never forget the first time I heard the band 'Pleasure' on the radio
back in the late 70's/early 80's. The 'lock' between Bruce and the bass
player was a master lesson in groove playing and how to get deeeeep in the
pocket. The 4 bar pattern Bruce plays on 'Glide' just mesmerized me,
particularly bars 3 and 4 where he chops the funk up so beautifully -- talk
about 'greasy' !! I'm so glad to see some of you Portland homeboys giving
Mr. Carter his props, and hopefully turning on some folks to his playing who
may not be familiar with it. The dude was a terror. He will be missed.
~ peace, Kevin J.