On a smoggy summer day in the mid-1970's, Soul & Jazz Record magazine scheduled my interview with Betty Be Bop Carter. Even then she was legendary. Lillie Mae Jones, soon to become Betty Carter, grew up traveling between Flint and Detroit chasing scat dreams. Ultimately, Lillie Mae would become the world's Be Bop Queen, donning her crown along with a new name.
In her hotel suite that morning, Carter had on a silky, lounge outfit and no make-up. When asked how it feels to be a vocal legend who weathered the musical storm from the be-bop era into ...read more
It's a warm October Saturday, the first year of the new Century. Small leaf storms are rising into the cloudless blue sky. The early autumn peace is broken by the news in the paper that Betty Carter has died in New York City at the age of 69. None of the accounts I read say just where and under what conditions she died. So many jazz musicians seem to have a way of breaking themselves like old 78 glass records, although to me, Betty Carter never seemed like one of the fragile ones.
Quite the opposite. She was ...read more
Open The Door William R. Bauer Univ of Michigan Press ISBN: 019514838X
Betty Carter came up as a bebop-only singer in the late 40's. She gradually broadened and deepened her music, enduring what she perceived as failed career over the next 25 years. Beginning with an engagement at the Keystone Corner (San Francisco) in 1975 she turned it around. A demanding and stubborn bandleader Carter won the respect (if not the affection) of the musicians who played with her. She was one of the first jazz musicians with her own record label (Bet-Car) and ...read more
Coming up in the shadow of Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald, Betty Carter realized early on there was no point competing on that terrain, and slowly but surely eked out one of her own. Carter's vocal world has been one of ferocious scat and luxuriously slow ballads, of relentless swing and angular melodic lines unafraid to dip into dissonance. Her sophisticated approach and the tight, shifting arrangements she works out for her backing trio lend themselves to an interpretation of lyrics which is ambiguous, abstract and often ironic. However, this is not most people's idea of what jazz singing should ...read more