Betty Carter: Meets The Pianists

Vinyl reissue of mid-50s sessions from the vocalist of whom Carmen McRae said 'There’s really only one jazz singer – only one: Betty Carter'


This vinyl reissue finds Betty Carter at the beginning of a stellar career that included working with Miles Davis, Ray Charles, Gigi Gryce and Sonny Rollins. It is part of a Supper Club series devoted to 40 female jazz vocalists ranging from Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee and Billie Holiday to lesser known artists like Chris Connor, Ernestine Anderson and Etta Jones.

Ms Carter first achieved public recognition with Lionel Hampton’s big band in 1948 on numbers like Jay Bird, Benson Boogie, The Hucklebuck and Cobb’s Idea. Her inventive scat routines so impressed the leader that he named her Betty Bebop and she remained with the band until 1951.

In 1952 King Pleasure invited her to perform on his Red Top recording, which became an early classic of vocalese. It was based on Gene Ammons’ 1947 hit and Betty handled trumpeter Gail Brockman’s tricky chorus with considerable aplomb. Carmen McRae, another in the Supper Club series, once claimed “There’s really only one jazz singer – only one: Betty Carter.”

These early recordings averaging two and a half minutes each, mostly find her performing standards which have inspired vocalists and instrumentalists for years. Her work here is notable for its crystal-clear diction and perfect intonation throughout a range which extends from a delicately controlled soprano to a rich contralto.

Along the way she debuts Randy Weston’s Babe’s Blues with Jon Hendrick’s lyric. Lambert, Hendricks and Ross later revisited it on their 1959 The Swingers album with the ebullient Zoot Sims. Gigi Gryce’s delightful Social Call, with another lyric by Jon Hendricks, had been introduced by Ernestine Anderson six months earlier. It is a perfect vehicle for Ms Carter’s sultry delivery and she returned to it on at least two occasions over the years.

(1) Thou Swell; Tell Him I Said Hello; I Could Write A Book; Moonlight In Vermont; Gone With The Wind; The Way You Look Tonight; Can’t We Be Friends: (2) I Can’t Help It; Babe’s Blues; You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me; But Beautiful; (3) Foul Play; (4) Social Call; Runaway; Let’s Fall In Love (40.01) 
Carter (v) with:
(1) Jerome Richardson (f); Ray Bryant (p); Wendell Marshall (b); Philly Joe Jones (d). NYC, May 1955.
(2) Ray Copeland (t); Melba Liston (tb); Jerome Richardson (f, ts, bsn); Wynton Kelly (p); Peck Morrison (b); Specs Wright (d). NYC, February 1958.
(3) Kenny Dorham, Ray Copeland (t); Melba Liston (tb); Gigi Gryce, Jimmy Powell (as); Benny Golson, Tommy Gryce (ts); Sahib Shihab (bar); Wynton Kelly (p); Sam Jones (b); Specs Wright (d). NYC, February 1958.
(4) Bernie Glow, Nick Travis, Conte Candoli, Joe Ferrante (t); Urbie Green, Jimmy Cleveland (tb); Sam Marowitz (as); Seldon Powell, Al Cohn (ts); Danny Bank (bar); Hank Jones (p); Milt Hinton (b); Osie Johnson (d). NYC, April 1956.
Supper Club 039