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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The happiest, freest, most joyful and energetic vocal jazz you've ever heard., 15 May 2008
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Finest Hour (Audio CD)
If you are a jazz fan and don't know Betty Carter, what a treat you have in store with this CD. Carter is a totally free spirit, almost abandoning the melody, sometimes, to play with it on her own terms, going in new directions and interacting with her accompanists to create new sounds, even on "standards." And she obviously LOVES what she is doing, one of the few performers who really has fun every minute she is on stage (and several tracks here are recorded live). The result is a CD that makes the listener as happy as the performer--an upbeat, bebop, scat-filled, and uptempo collection that never lets down for an instant.

Carter blends with her band(s) on many tracks, the timbre of her voice sometimes sounding like a "blatty" trumpet and sometimes like a mellow sax, and she provides many opportunities for her musicians to take the song in new directions, to which she responds in kind. If the song is a standard and you know the melody, you will have no difficulty finding it within the variations and improvisations. "The Trolley Song," a song I have never liked, (from The Audience with Betty Carter becomes a "new" and thoroughly delightful song in Betty's hands, especially when she delays her lyrics, staying behind the band. Filled with humor and high-octane playfulness, she musically mugs with the audience and keeps them chuckling as the trolley finally runs down.

Her duet with Carmen McRae (in a track from "The Carmen McRae-Betty Carter Duets, Live at the Great American"), "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" is such a high point that listeners will undoubtedly be clicking on the link to get details about this phenomenal CD. Again, they have fun, joking, playing with scat and rhythm, bouncing riffs off each other and blending two different types of voices, Carter's higher and lighter, McRae's, deeper and richer.

"Tight," a song she composed, is so fast that it's good it's only 1:37 minutes long, even though it is a complete drama about a love lost--or maybe lost. "I Could Write a Book," (also from "The Audience with Betty Carter") starts out, like several others here, as completely scat and morphs into a toe-tapping rock-'em-sock'em performance. Even a romantic standard like "In the Still of the Night" (from It's Not About the Melodysounds completely new--cheerful and lively, with a great piano solo, and all the traditional mystery discarded. A CD that is pure jazz, pure entertainment, and pure fun, this Betty Carter collection traces her style from 1958 until 1992 and never misses one glorious beat. n Mary Whipple
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Betty Carter's Finest Hour
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