It’s so easy for sidemen to go unnoticed by so many. Keter Betts’ contribution to the music of many jazz notables, including Dinah Washington, Stan Getz and Ella Fitzgerald, makes it impossible for him to go on unnoticed. His groove was energetic, his walking bass-line note choices were reminiscent of Blanton and Pettiford and his solo style was his own. He was incredibly witty, and that wit transferred through to his music. I would often hear him quoting songs, using excerpts in his solos to make me smile (or so I would like to think). Off the bandstand, he would make me smile as well. In fact, I don’t think that I can remember an encounter with Keter that didn’t have me smiling. Along with many jazz melodies, he wrote lyrics. One of his monologues is a tune called “The Walking Bass.” I recorded it and people would always ask if I wrote it. “No, it’s by Keter Betts.”
Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.