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Obit: a thread for Betty Carter (1929-1998)

keberoxu 03 Jan 18 - 04:15 PM
Joe Offer 03 Jan 18 - 06:00 PM
keberoxu 03 Jan 18 - 06:13 PM
Jackaroodave 03 Jan 18 - 06:16 PM
keberoxu 03 Jan 18 - 06:42 PM
Joe Offer 03 Jan 18 - 07:14 PM
keberoxu 03 Jan 18 - 08:26 PM
rich-joy 03 Jan 18 - 09:40 PM
GUEST,Jack Campin 04 Jan 18 - 09:26 AM
keberoxu 04 Jan 18 - 10:00 AM
keberoxu 04 Jan 18 - 10:16 AM
keberoxu 04 Jan 18 - 11:37 AM
keberoxu 04 Jan 18 - 12:18 PM
keberoxu 04 Jan 18 - 02:52 PM
keberoxu 04 Jan 18 - 04:50 PM
rich-joy 04 Jan 18 - 06:07 PM
rich-joy 04 Jan 18 - 06:35 PM
keberoxu 05 Jan 18 - 01:10 PM
keberoxu 05 Jan 18 - 07:44 PM
keberoxu 05 Jan 18 - 09:59 PM
keberoxu 07 Jan 18 - 05:53 PM
GUEST,Roderick a warnerv 08 Jan 18 - 06:05 AM
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Subject: Betty Carter, 1929 - 1998
From: keberoxu
Date: 03 Jan 18 - 04:15 PM

It has sense that Mudcat would not have an obituary thread for Betty Carter.
After all, the year she died was 1998, and Mudcat was still little better than a tadpole, or something . . .

and why focus on her death (pancreatic cancer, progressed very quickly)
when there is so much to celebrate and discover about her career and her work?

Her birthname is said to have been Lillie Mae Jones. Her African-American family lived in Michigan, by one account they had yet to move to Detroit when she was born;
however, her parents were devout, and her father a musician,
so he found work in the music ministry of a church in the greater Detroit area.   

And in that milieu was she raised.
Little is spoken about her family of origin,
and it seems that that is a mutual understanding between
the artist we know as Betty Carter, and her relatives;
she left home early and went her own way,
and when interviewed,
she most often commented that polite distance was the routine between her and her blood relatives. She would pretty much leave the subject there.

It's worth noting that Betty Carter was equally discreet
about the family of her adult years.
Her marriage did not last all that long, but she was quiet about it.
And the two sons who were the issue of that marriage,
as far as I can work out, she raised them as a single/divorced mother.
She was proud of them but kept her relationship with them private.

Hers was not an easy career.
At one point, as a middle-aged musician, she formed her own record company, "Bet-Car," because who else would record her?
Something like that ... not that simple, of course, because her reputation as a musician was solid, and the respect from her peers equally so. But the business, and the artist that she was, were never at ease with each other.

To think that it is nearly twenty years since she died.
At least one of her two grown sons is now
the go-to person regarding Bet-Car recordings, legalities, royalties, and so on.

Let's introduce Betty Carter's singing,
for those who are new to her, with this studio recording
when her voice was still youthful and had its full range.

"Don't Weep for the Lady"


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Subject: RE: Obit: a thread for Betty Carter (1929-1998)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Jan 18 - 06:00 PM

An entity called "OKMUSIX" has posted a good number of Betty Carter recordings on YouTube:She had a beautiful voice, and her interpretations of songs were always intelligent and insightful. Wikipedia calls her interpretations "imaginative," and I'd agree with that.

I discovered the music of Betty Carter a number of years ago, but I had forgetten about her in recent years. Thank you for bringing back her memory, keberoxu. She may be even better than Ella Fitzgerald.

Here's the story of Betty Carter on Wikipedia:-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Obit: a thread for Betty Carter (1929-1998)
From: keberoxu
Date: 03 Jan 18 - 06:13 PM

This post, if I can manage the links, will show how I first heard Betty Carter in live performance,
and provide some perspective.

That previous post, the link was a studio recording from roughly 1960, and Ms. Carter was in robust good health singing there.

Contrast this with a studio recording from about the same time.
Here the artist is the singer professionally known as Dinah Washington.
She was not all that much older than Betty Carter,
an age difference of less than ten years.
When Ms. Washington recorded this song, she only had a short time left to live,
and already her voice was, let's say, no longer what it had been when she was young.
You will note, listening to Ms. Washington's delivery, that she kind of speaks on pitch through the song, and it's an authoritative performance, knowing exactly how far she can push her voice, and pushing it no farther. Tremendous emphasis on diction, lyrics, the words, in this song.

The link after that is the same song, sung by Betty Carter. Why this choice?
Because, "I Was Telling Him About You" was the first song I ever heard Betty Carter sing live, the opening song of her set at that club in downtown Boston, wasn't it called the Jazz Workshop?
The second link in this post, if it works, is unpleasant in that it seems to be a video of a broadcast of a documentary --
that might explain the truly wretched quality of the sound.
But it is Betty Carter in performance, singing the first song I heard her sing, in much the same way that I heard her sing it years ago.

I don't know the year/date of this performance or documentary. But obviously,
Betty Carter is older, with the pros and cons that gives a professional singer.
Telling to compare this link with her singing "Don't Weep For The Lady."

Dinah Washington, studio recording, 1961

documentary, live performance, Betty Carter


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Subject: RE: a thread for Betty Carter
From: Jackaroodave
Date: 03 Jan 18 - 06:16 PM

Thank you for the reminder and for the link.

She was a musician's musician's musician who went out of her way to work with and mentor young jazz talents, nurturing the tradition she exemplified.

Carmen McRae said, "There's really only one jazz singer--only one: Betty Carter."


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Subject: a thread for Betty Carter (1929-1998)
From: keberoxu
Date: 03 Jan 18 - 06:42 PM

No links this post, just a comment or two.

The Ella Fitzgerald comparison is convenient, since both singers were supremely musical, and at their best, both were celebrated for their sense of pitch (Carter's, late in life, would alter slightly). Their musicianship extends to that specialty called scat singing, which sounds spontaneous but is anything but easy to do well.

Then too, each of these singers made favorable associations with other musicians, joint recordings which would leave a stamp on their careers. For Ella Fitzgerald, it was Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, amongst others. For Betty Carter, it was her recordings with the likes of Ray Bryant, King Pleasure, and Ray Charles; I am not aware that any form of recording exists for her years of apprenticeship with Lionel Hampton's big band, when she was really young, but of course that apprenticeship was her professional foundation in many respects.

Anita O'Day, another of the big-band era singers, and one whose career was a roller-coaster of highs and lows, remarked, regarding Ella Fitzgerald's career choices, with typical blunt outspokennness:
"Ella sang anything and everything; but every time I looked at her, she was always eating."   O'Day knew what it was to go hungry -- and there was her drug abuse, which she was lucky to have survived.

That's one of the remarkable things about Betty Carter.
She had temperament -- did she ever! An intensely emotional human being.
But look at all the little choices that add up to her career and that add up to what is known about her personal/private life,
and I, for one, am not just respectful, I am honest-to-God in awe.

This is an artist on a first-name basis with Miles Davis ("I've known the boy for thirty years," she once remarked to DownBeat magazine), and she sang for Charlie Parker which would scare the UNPRINTABLE out of me. I doubt that there was anything about show business, the music industry, the performer's life, that she was not exposed to at some point. From the drug trafficking to the toll that touring and performing takes on one's relationships with loved ones, not to speak of the whole money thing, she must have seen it all, and lived some of it. And, heaven help us, the racism and prejudice.

Regardless, she steered a deliberate, constructive life-path through territory which could have held all the hazards of a mine-field.
What a role model she was,
even if she was, bless her, no saint but rather thoroughly human.


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Subject: RE: Obit: a thread for Betty Carter (1929-1998)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Jan 18 - 07:14 PM

This is fun, Keberoxu. I hope others will take the time to listen to her:


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Subject: RE: Obit: a thread for Betty Carter (1929-1998)
From: keberoxu
Date: 03 Jan 18 - 08:26 PM

This link is not easy to come by;
it's very early in Betty Carter's career, this recording.
So much so that it was broadcast as a 78 RPM single!
Probably there was a 33 RPM long-playing vinyl album as well.
Only, the featured artist would not have been young Betty Carter,
but the singer known as King Pleasure.

I don't know near enough about this -- am just hearing it for the first time. This is a case of a tune being recorded as an instrumental, becoming popular in that version, and someone decided to preserve the studio arrangement and write words to the instrumental.

The little I do know is:
the instrumental "Red Top" goes back to a 1947 studio recording
featuring Gene Ammons, tenor saxophone.
Who was his trumpet player? No idea.

So when King Pleasure brings a young singer named Betty Carter
into the recording studio with the session musicians,
King Pleasure sings lyrics to the Gene Ammons tenor sax solo,
and Betty Carter sings lyrics to the trumpet solo.
Check this out!

"Red Top" vocal arrangement


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Subject: RE: Obit: a thread for Betty Carter (1929-1998)
From: rich-joy
Date: 03 Jan 18 - 09:40 PM

Yes Indeed! "Red Top" by Betty & King has long been a favourite of mine!
I can't access my most of my LPs at present, so can't check for Gene's trumpet player (though 20 years on he used Joe Newman in some sessions....)

Interesting, that quote from Ms O'Day re Ella ....
Perhaps the point was that she COULD sing anything and everything! (and perhaps was only truly happy when Singing? And after all, she wouldn't be the first person to assuage him/herself with food intake......)

I too, like this thread, Keberoxu - Thanks!
(I might even take the time to revisit my old Gene Lees books, which I loved :)

Cheers!
Rich-Joy
Down Under


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Subject: RE: Obit: a thread for Betty Carter (1929-1998)
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 04 Jan 18 - 09:26 AM

Good grief. I heard her at the Glasgow Jazz Festival - late 80s/early 90s - and she was incredible. I had no idea she'd died.

Thanks for all this.


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Subject: RE: Obit: a thread for Betty Carter (1929-1998)
From: keberoxu
Date: 04 Jan 18 - 10:00 AM

That must smart, Jack Campin! Wasn't she a force of nature?
She seemed unstoppable. I'm sorry that the news hit you like this.
I just skimmed through an interview with a young Ethiopian native
who stumbled upon Betty Carter's career and recordings,
so looked her up and discovered
that Betty Carter had been dead for five years or so --
and burst into tears on the spot.

A biography of Betty Carter was published not long after her death;
an authorized one, interviews with Ms. Carter herself, with her common-law (ex-?)husband and father of her two sons, and such.
The biography was being researched and prepared with her blessing;
then she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer,
and the disease took her in a matter of months, really quickly.
Before the author knew it, his subject was deceased
and he had to wrap things up a lot sooner than he dreamed of.
I don't have a link here to the title, but in a future post
I will try to put it here.
Not only is this biography a US work,
but its author is a university professor, can write about music accordingly;
I forget who is the publishing press,
it might very well be a university press?

What I can supply, closing this post, is a tasty link to
a photographer's blog,
with some priceless photos - first time I've seen them --
of Betty Carter when she was both mature and young if you know what I mean.

photographer Mark Weber on Betty Carter


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Subject: RE: Obit: a thread for Betty Carter (1929-1998)
From: keberoxu
Date: 04 Jan 18 - 10:16 AM

When Betty Carter granted an interview,
she not only took it seriously,
she took it personally and with great intensity.
Here's a good example.

transcript of radio interview with Betty Carter


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Subject: RE: Obit: a thread for Betty Carter (1929-1998)
From: keberoxu
Date: 04 Jan 18 - 11:37 AM

Thanks, Rich-Joy, for your comments.
I have to offer an opinion on one thing.

"but every time I looked at her,
she was always eating." -- Anita O'Day

My post presented this quote out of context, perhaps
that is the reason it can be read in more than one way.
Your post said how you read the quote;
and here is how I read it, just my opinion.

"Ella did whatever she had to do
to make enough money to put food on the table. "
So,
"every time I looked at her,
she had enough money to live on,
she earned enough to put food on the table,
she did not have to worry or wonder
where her next meal was coming from
or where she would sleep tomorrow night."

If Anita O'Day's quote is taken literally,
then yes, one pictures Anita O'Day turning her glance to one side
and watching Ella Fitzgerald stuff food into her mouth...

my suspicion is that O'Day implied something different.
Moreover,
I suspect that Betty Carter would not have needed an interpreter
in order to understand EXACTLY
what was implied about Ella Fitzgerald --
she would have known what O'Day was talking about.

Sorry, I just got a little emotional there.
Please don't take it personally. Thanks!


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Subject: RE: Obit: a thread for Betty Carter (1929-1998)
From: keberoxu
Date: 04 Jan 18 - 12:18 PM

Post number seven in this thread posed a musical band personnel question.

Answer:
His name was Gail Brockman, and he was a native of the hometown of
trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, in the Carolina states.

Gail Brockman, trumpet, and tenor sax player Gene Ammons
both came up through the big bands of
Earl Hines and Billy Eckstein.
They recorded "Red Top" amongst other tunes
in Chicago in 1947.

I can't find Mr. Brockman's date of death;
even his birth year, 1910, is approximate.


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Subject: RE: Obit: a thread for Betty Carter (1929-1998)
From: keberoxu
Date: 04 Jan 18 - 02:52 PM

Well this will link to a song
which is nothing if not
TIMELY

Ray Charles and Betty Carter: Baby, It's Cold Outside


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Subject: RE: Obit: a thread for Betty Carter (1929-1998)
From: keberoxu
Date: 04 Jan 18 - 04:50 PM

Today, I kind of share Jack Campin's astonishment and dismay,
although I knew about Betty Carter's passing at the time, because:

one of Carter's mentored students was pianist Geri Allen.
A lovely short video can be seen of an elderly Betty Carter
(she is in fact balding and bare-headed, makes her look severe)
singing "Lonely Town",
words by Langston Hughes and music by Kurt Weill.
A youthful and glamorous-looking Geri Allen plays the piano
as part of the backing trio.

Now I find out that Geri Allen died of cancer last year.
Heck, it's bad enough saying goodbye to Betty Carter --

now her babies are passing away as well. End of an era.


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Subject: RE: Obit: a thread for Betty Carter (1929-1998)
From: rich-joy
Date: 04 Jan 18 - 06:07 PM

RE: keberoxu
Date: 04 Jan 18 - 11:37 AM

Thanks for that clarification, Keberoxu. Yes, the complete quote puts a whole other slant on it, rather than the impression I got - and reacted to, LOL!
[ a wider Life-Lesson there, eh, so thanks for that - and apologies to the (also amazing) late Anita O'Day!! ]

Cheers,
R-J


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Subject: RE: Obit: a thread for Betty Carter (1929-1998)
From: rich-joy
Date: 04 Jan 18 - 06:35 PM

Here's one I have put aside to watch later :

Thanks to Joe's posted links, all 1hr 49min of :
"The incredible Betty Carter Live at The Hamburg Jazz Festival, October 1993 with Geri Allen on piano, Dave Holland on Bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oD36b5lq_Vg

R-J


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Subject: a thread for Betty Carter (1929-1998)
From: keberoxu
Date: 05 Jan 18 - 01:10 PM

Well this post is like handling hot coal, red embers. I don't want anybody getting burned here.
But this is human drama and it is volatile stuff. Caution indicated.

As of this moment -- I searched around, this is as current as I can make it --
there is a woman still alive, if withdrawn from public life,
on the West Coast, in some part of Southern California.
She has to be senior-citizen old; she is, according to her older son,
living with Alzheimer's disease.

Her first name is Irene. There is a string of further names, some of them, due to relationship statuses, bump each other out of the way in places. If you string them all together in some kind of chronological order, they might look like
Irene Birth Cawthon Davis-Oliver.

She left St. Louis, which I believe to have been where she grew up,
in the company of a young musician named Miles Davis. At the time, she was expecting a baby; they came to New York.

Three children came from this relationship:
Cheryl, Gregory, and Miles Dewey Davis IV who would
change his name to Muhammad Abdullah when he converted to Islam.
If only because of the children,
this was one of Miles Davis's most significant relationships;
as such, it has been subjected to scrutiny in the books,
which must come to nearly a dozen now,
covering Davis's life and career.
The published accounts agree, some of them grudgingly,
that Irene Davis-Oliver's connection to Miles Davis
was common-law, not even a license from a justice of the peace for a civil union.

The children, with their mother Irene, were installed in a home in New York City
at the time when Davis began, should we call it,
a relationship with heroin.
The parties involved survived the heroin years,
but the common-law marriage was a casualty of the addiction.

Betty Carter has spoken little, if at all, of her involvement;
but Miles Davis himself had something to say,
in the autobiography published near the end of his life.

Quote:
"I basically left Irene sitting at home with the kids because I didn't want to be there.
One of the reasons why I stopped coming home was that
I felt so bad that I couldn't hardly face my family.
Irene had had such confidence and faith in me.
Gregory and Cheryl, the kids, were still young
and didn't know exactly what was going on.
But Irene knew. It was all there in her eyes.
    I left here in the care of Betty Carter, the singer.
If it hadn't been for Betty Carter, I don't know what Irene would have done.
Because of the way I treated Irene back in those days,
I think Betty Carter, even today, don't like me much.
I can't blame her, because I was a no-count motherf***** in those days
as far as providing for my family went.
I didn't mean to leave Irene stranded the way I did, but . . ."   
(page 131, The Autobiography: Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989)


John Szwed's biography is a source for Irene Davis-Oliver's point of view, direct quotes included.
Quote:
"Irene, desperate, turned to anyone whom she thought might help her . . .
When nothing else worked, she called Miles's father [in St. Louis] to tell him
that she had no way of coping with drugs. . . .
'Betty [Carter] worshiped Miles,' Irene said, so Miles talked Betty
into letting the children and Irene move in with her and share the rent.
Irene had recently found a job
in the Admissions Department at the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital.
Since Betty sang in clubs at night,
she could take are of the children during the day."
(pages 89 and 91, So What: The Life of Miles Davis, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002)


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Subject: RE: Obit: a thread for Betty Carter (1929-1998)
From: keberoxu
Date: 05 Jan 18 - 07:44 PM

Here is a reminiscence about how this great artist
recruited a young fellow to play piano in her trio.
For those who don't know (if you DO know, bear with us here),
this is Betty-Carter-With-Her-Trio.
That means four people. It's not unusual to see listings,
in the archives of whatever, that say
The Betty Carter Trio, and this is misleading at best.
Invariably there are four people:
one pianist; one drummer; one double-bass player (yes, she preferred acoustic);
AND Betty Carter. Great, we're all on the same page here.
This reminiscence is a beauty.

Benny Green remembers Betty Carter


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Subject: RE: Obit: a thread for Betty Carter (1929-1998)
From: keberoxu
Date: 05 Jan 18 - 09:59 PM

Time for some more beautiful singing.
Two links, God willing, in this post.
The first is from that same album on which
Ray Charles and Betty Carter sang "Baby, It's Cold Outside."

The second, years later, is a live performance on a television show.
Betty Carter, with her trio,
starts with "Tight" -- a fast song of her own, words And music are hers.
Then, the same song that she had sung with Ray Charles.

Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye (studio arrangement)

broadcast: "Tight" and "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye"


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Subject: RE: Obit: a thread for Betty Carter (1929-1998)
From: keberoxu
Date: 07 Jan 18 - 05:53 PM

For the presentation to which this post has a link,
you will require 30 minutes minimum, uninterrupted,
just to let you know upfront.

In these 30 minutes, Betty Carter speaks of how she got started in music, in singing, and how she got into the business;
and what kind of music was out there for her to engage with.

However this is not 30 minutes of non-stop talking.
Interwoven with Betty Carter's reminiscences are the following:

audio: Sarah Vaughan's singing a lyric titled "Interlude" (who's the author?)
over Dizzy Gillespie's sextet playing "A Night in Tunisia"

audio: Ella Fitzgerald scat-singing near the end of
an instrumental performance (maybe six choruses in?) of
"How High The Moon,"
including Lester Young, tenor saxophone

audio: Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker leading their group
in a bebop instrumental called "Shaw Nuff" (live, not studio)

VIDEO! Black and white, sure, but still a staged VIDEO!
from before 1950. The Lionel Hampton big band stars in this
up-tempo, no-words-no-lyrics production number,
with a barely-twenty-year-old Bebop Betty Carter scat-singing.
The production is called "Cobb's Idea," don't ask me who Cobb was.

Betty Carter episode of "Bebop Singers"


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Subject: RE: Obit: a thread for Betty Carter (1929-1998)
From: GUEST,Roderick a warnerv
Date: 08 Jan 18 - 06:05 AM

Cobbs Idea possibly refers to tenor sax player Arnette Cobb who played in the Hampton Band in the 40s, I think... he also recorded this number in a small band under his own name according to his discography.


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