on 2 January 2013
This fine 2-CD set sweeps up recordings made, in the first half of her career, by Betty Carter, a unique talent with ability to deliver a range of material both singing "straight" and scatting. Her real name was Lillie Mae Jones. As a teenager in the mid-1940s, she sang with musicians visiting her home city of Detroit, including Charlie Parker. As a professional, she adopted the name Lorraine Carter. From 1948-51, she was with Lionel Hampton. The earliest tracks on this set are an aircheck while with Hamp in 1948, and 2 studio tracks in 1949. Because of her liking for the modern jazz of the day, Hamp dubbed her "Betty Bebop", and subsequently she opted for Betty Carter. Another early track here is from 1952 with King Pleasure, an exponent of vocalese and, later, an influence on the likes of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. The set then sweeps up a series of albums, beginning with "Meet Betty Carter and Ray Bryant" from 1955 (with backing from a trio of Ray Bryant (p), Wendell Marshall (b) and Philly Joe Jones (d) plus Jerome Richardson (fl) on some tracks). This is followed by "Social Call" from 1956 and "Out There with Betty Carter" from 1958 - on which she was backed by big bands led (and with arrangements) by Gigi Gryce. (The actual issue arrangements are described in a bit more detail in the excellent accompanying booklet.) The second CD has "The Modern Sound of Betty Carter" from 1960, again with orchestral backing; and the album for which she is perhaps best known - "Ray Charles and Betty Carter" from 1961 with some tracks with strings and others with a big band including solos by Ray's tenorman David "Fathead" Newman. Baby, It's Cold Outside from the latter may well sound familiar. I have not checked her discography in detail to confirm that the set is absolutely comprehensive as is claimed. But it is a very good set, in good sound. Please note that my copy had a small aural glitch early on track 2 of CD2. The replacement had the same, so presumably every copy has it. But don't let that put you off. I mention it simply so that other purchasers can avoid wasted effort in seeking a replacement. After a break during the 1960s to bring up her children, she resumed her career later in the decade. Thereafter, she was normally supported by a trio (which included a string of fine musicians). She was at her best in "live" performances. Her celebrated album "The Audience with Betty Carter" (1979) is a prime example. A DVD of a performance in Montreal in 1982 is also well worth hunting down.