Monday, September 04, 2006

More on BC....When Bruce Carter was on drums, you knew it was him...

Here is a wonderfully written memory of the late Bruce Carter, by senior music writer
Marty Hughley, found in the Portland Oregonian on 8/21/06

Big thanks to Auntie P. for her wonderful, and as always sparkling research and archival work :)

"When Bruce Carter was on drums, you knew it was him..."
Remembrances - A heart attack robs Portland of a huge presence in funk, jazz

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Oregonian

At some point in the evening, inevitably, the chant would arise. Started by one of the musicians onstage, it would be picked up eagerly by the fans crowding the dance floor and quickly take on a kind of rolling rhythmic energy.

"B.C.! He can play the drums! B.C.! We're gonna give him some! B.C.! He can play the drums! B.C.! . . ." everyone would repeat, turning the room into a veritable engine of anticipation and encouragement.

Then the voices would fall away as Bruce Carter began to solo. After all, it's hard to chant, or to say much of anything, when you're slack-jawed. And even if you knew how well Carter and his bandmates in the popular funk outfit Cool'R could play, even if you came back week after week for their regular Sunday night gig at the Last Hurrah or caught them at other Portland clubs, Carter's sometimes-10-minute drum solos would leave you shaking your head in disbelief.

That was during the 1980s, when Carter already had established his reputation with Pleasure, the Portland band that toured nationally and reached the R&B chart Top 10. He'd go on to 15 years in the drum chair of smooth-jazz superstar Kenny G's touring band.

Carter died Aug. 12 of a heart attack, at age 49, leaving Portland a less funky and less joyful place. Though he'd performed in the area rarely over the past decade, he remained a huge presence in the memories of music fans of his generation and in the hearts of his fellow musicians.

A public funeral will be held at 11 a.m. today in Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church, 3138 N. Vancouver Ave.

Carter was heavy, physically as well as musically. Music critic Rick Mitchell, a former contributor to The Oregonian, aptly nicknamed him "the Round Mound of Get Down," a variation on "the Round Mound of Rebound," as basketball star Charles Barkley was called.

Jazz sax star Grover Washington Jr. once told The Oregonian that his first question whenever he visited Portland in the 1970s was, "Where's Pleasure playing?" and that the band had "one of the best rhythm sections around." David Leiken, the longtime concert promoter who also managed Pleasure, recalls the vaunted musicians from Tower of Power watching Carter closely, hoping to learn his secrets.

Carter excelled at the dance floor imperatives of funk, but was just as adroit with straight-ahead jazz, rock or whatever.

No matter what, his sound was distinctive.

I once went to review a Kenny G concert, before I knew he'd hired Carter. When I sat down, the house lights still were up and technicians were milling about the stage. I could tell someone was behind the drum kit but couldn't see a face behind the cymbals. Then came a single strike of the kick drum: "Boom!"

"That's Bruce!," I yelled, darting up with the instant energy of recognition.

"Bruce played Bruce," said veteran jazz drummer Dick Berk, a former Portlander who called from Las Vegas when he heard the news of Carter's death. "Some drummers all sound the same. But he had his own thing. Everything came out when he played -- the heart, the wit, whatever. You just felt life.

"Plus, he was the kind of guy who you'd meet and feel like you'd known him for years."

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Providence Medical Center Cardiac Care, or to organizations supporting music education.

Marty Hughley: 503-221-8383;

©2006 The Oregonian


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home