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Betty Carter and Ray Bryant: Meet Betty Carter and Ray Bryant

No slight intended to Ray Bryant, whose eight trio tracks and solid work as an accompanist represent superior examples of post-Powell piano, but the lady he’s co-billed with here leaves merely very fine jazz in the distance halfway through track one. Betty Carter has benn called the quintessential jazz singer, largely because she excels at the qualities that jazz lovers extol; phrasing, improvisational imagination, contgrol, and tone. It’s no coincidence that all these are attributes shared with instrumentalists; jazz is after all, primarily an instrumental music and its listeners are tuned in that way. Thus they don’t always appreciate one of Betty’s greatest abilities. She can get inside the meaning of a song and deliver it as convincingly as the greatest blues, gospel, country or traditional singers. In jazz, only Billie is her equal.

But perhaps I’m being over analytical. When the artist in question evokes tears, a lump in the throat, a prickling on the back of the neck, all the rest, to quote a song Betty sings elsewhere, is just talk. As for what is heree, she doesn’t take the extended flights of later years but is already the greatest scatter ever on this first outing, and her voice is warmer. Well, to quote a song that is here, I could write a book, but I’ll close by saying that this release represents a pivotal moment in the career of one of the greatest artists America has ever produced.

You just might want it. – Duck Baker

Originally Published