So began Schnall’s long journey interviewing Carter at his house, on the road, in the studio to fully understand the 85-year-old’s majestic life story, with Jonathan Zalben serving the valuable role as the film’s musical supervisor. He started out by writing a letter to Carter and then visiting him at home. “It was the most wonderful and interesting and surprising conversation. We chatted for two hours, not so much about music, but about life. That was to be the beginning of an extraordinary journey together.”

If Schnall hadn’t been steeped in jazz before, he certainly gained a depth of appreciation from Carter as well as from the other great jazz musicians he interviewed, ranging from Herbie Hancock to Sonny Rollins.

As for getting the documentary out to the public, Schnall first pitched the story to PBS. “They immediately said ‘yes’ to the project, they were very excited about the Ron Carter story,” he says. “Later, when we presented PBS with our 90-minute rough cut, they asked if we could extend the show to two hours. That doesn’t happen too often.”

The same enthusiasm held true with IN+OUT Records. “The soundtrack was produced in less than three months,” Schnall says. “It’s an important compilation, as the tracks represent the breadth and scope of the music Mr. Carter has been performing throughout his career.”

In his documentary, Schnall captures the admiration so many artists have for Carter. Here’s a sampling of praise from the remarkable film:

“He’s creating his legacy, I think, every day. I think he’s been doing that for a long time. … every bass player today, whether they know it, like it, or whatever, when you play jazz bass, there’s a bit of Ron Carter in everyone.”
— Stanley Clarke, bassist

“He’s like an architect. He’s thinking ahead. He’s building a direction when he plays. But at the same time, he’s listening to what drums are doing, what the piano is doing. Every part of it, all of that happening at the same time. But that’s what creativity is
about in jazz.”
—Herbie Hancock, pianist

“The beautiful thing about jazz and maybe about all music is that it lends to individuality. All the great players have an individual sound. You can identify Ron if you hear some music for a few moments, you can listen; ‘oh yeah, that’s Ron Carter’.”
—Sonny Rollins, saxophonist

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