Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.

Bassist Ron Carter, whose quartet has recently become one of the most sparkling ensembles in jazz, opened Tuesday night at Blues Alley for the second time in a year.

Comprised of Carter, playing piccolo bass (a smaller version of the standard upright bass), bassist Buster Williams, pianist Kenny Barron and drummer Ben Riley, the group offered a marvelously varied set.

Carter, 40, a veteran of the Miles Davis Quintet in the '60s, is the chief soloist. He plays the piccolo bass with as much dexterity, melodic imagination and rhythmic complexity as the standard bass on which he once concentrated. Only this instrument has a lighter, more delicate romantic - effect when it's used in a sound that can be used to great - and smaller ensemble of empathic performers.

That was the case particularly in Carter's piece, "A Little Waltz," a ballad the leader got under way by lightly plucking the melody at pianissimo level with loving care. Also impressive were the weel-chosen intervals his melody followed.

The group shone in "Sheila's Song," a composition of Spanish quality. It began with Carter's brooding, bowed bass work, followed by Barron building the tension with a roaring solo that eventually burst out of its seams.

The group plays through Saturday night.