John Carter (Ab Baars)

Module code
Curricular domain
Profile, extension and depth: Practical Classes
Group size
Number of course weeks
Class duration
One 120-minute lesson per week
Total contact hours
12 hours
Study load
44 hours

Form / content / level

Admitted to at least the second year of Bachelor phase.
See Competencies Matrix.
Developing yourself as a soloist playing alone.
Relation to other modules
Related to Main subject.
The aim of this course is to present the music of John Carter, which is sadly underexposed. Musicians will study, learn and perform his compositions with a focus on how his unique notation can aid the improvisor in finding their own path to interpret the music.

John Carter (USA 1929-1991) clarinet and tenor saxophone, was an extraordinarily virtuosic improviser and prolific composer. He grew up with Ornette Coleman in Fort Worth in the 1940's, and much of the rest of his career was spent investigating tangents of jazz and black musical traditions. He was considered to be one of the deans of the West Coast jazz avant-garde.

In 1989 I had the honor of studying with John Carter in Los Angeles for which I received a grant from the Dutch Government. Later that same year I was awarded the Boy Edgar Prize and for that special occasion I could invite John to take part in the honorary concert at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam. Together with Michael Moore we played a memorable clarinet trio. That year was highly creative and inspiring for me: taking lessons with John and also having a chance to work with him as a colleague. It was a deep experience that has shaped my artistic life ever since.

I had been a great fan of Carter’s clarinet playing for some time after hearing his breathtaking solo record John Carter - A Suite of Early American Folk Pieces. I was equally impressed with his compositional skills displayed in his five part suite entitled Roots and Folklore: Episodes in the Development of American Folk Music, a series of recordings that had started in 1982 with Dauwhe. There was a looseness to the playing and composing even while being very detailed and carefully structured. This was a big influence on my development as an improviser and composer.

John Carter died in 1991 soon after I got to know him. The following year I went back to Los Angeles to look for music/scores which his widow Gloria handed over to me. This culminated in a program with the Ab Baars Trio featuring John’s music and the CD Carol Court 3900 – Ab Baars Trio plays the music of John Carter.

I still play John’s compositions up to this day: solo, in duo, trio or large ensemble. Carter’s music offers beautiful material for improvisers as well as composers; his music has an open, contemporary feel with strong roots in the tradition.

John Carter Ab Baars Michael Moore – Bimhuis December 1989: Glorpjes
John Carter Bobby Bradford Quartet – Sticks and Stones
Mode(s) of instruction
Group classes.
Material & Tools
Student activity

Examination and assessment

Mode(s) of assessment
Assessment by the instructor at the end of the module.
Students should have mastered the elements described under Contents.
Pass requirements
The student has completed this module if he is awarded a minimum grade of 5.5.
Examination procedure
Students are assessed at the end of the module. The assessments comprise evaluations of students' performance during the lessons and, if applicable, public performances.
Resit options
See the Education and Assessment Plan.

Module summary

These classes will focus on the music of John Carter.