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Betty Carter (born Lillie Mae Jones, May 16, 1929 – September 26, 1998) was an Americanmarker jazz singer renowned for her improvisational technique and idiosyncratic vocal style. Her devotion to the jazz idiom was such that her fellow vocalist Carmen McRae once claimed that "there's really only one jazz singer - only one: Betty Carter."

Early life

Carter was born in Flint, Michiganmarker and grew up in Detroitmarker, where her father led a church choir. She studied piano at the Detroit Conservatory. She won a talent contest and became a regular on the local club circuit, singing and playing piano. When she was 16, she sang with Charlie Parker, and she later performed with Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis.

Career

Carter honed her scat singing ability while on tour with Lionel Hampton in the late 1940s. Hampton's wife Gladys gave her the nickname "Betty Bebop", a nickname she reportedly detested. In the 1950s Carter made recordings with King Pleasure and the Ray Bryant Trio. Her first solo LP, Out There with Betty Carter, was released on the Peacock label in 1958.

Carter's career was eclipsed somewhat through the 1960s and 1970s, though a series of duets with Ray Charles in 1961, including the R&B-chart-topping "Baby, It's Cold Outside," brought her a measure of popular recognition. In 1963 she toured in Japanmarker with Sonny Rollins. She recorded for various labels during this period, including ABC-Paramount, Atco and United Artists, but was rarely satisfied with the resulting product.

In 1970, a record company A&R man tried to run off with a set of her master recordings; the incident led her to establish her own record label, Bet-Car. Some of her most famous recordings were originally issued on Bet-Car, including the double album The Audience with Betty Carter (1980). In 1980 she was the subject of a documentary film by Michelle Parkerson, But Then, She's Betty Carter.

In the last decade of her life, Carter finally began to receive wider acclaim and recognition. In 1987 she signed with Verve Records, who reissued most of her Bet-Car albums on CD for the first time and made them available to wider audiences. In 1988 she won a Grammy for her album Look What I Got! and sang in a guest appearance on The Cosby Show (episode "How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?"). In 1994 she performed at the White Housemarker and was a headliner at Verve's 50th anniversary celebration in Carnegie Hallmarker. In 1997 she was awarded a National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton. Carter remained active in jazz until her death from pancreatic cancer in 1998, aged 69.

Legacy

Like Art Blakey and Charles Mingus, Betty Carter recruited members of the younger generation of performers to bring her creations to life. She insisted that she "learned a lot from these young players, because they're raw and they come up with things that I would never think about doing." Her collaborators became a veritable musical school - what the New York Times called "jazz's best university: Betty Carter U."

In 1993 Carter helped launch the Jazz Ahead program for young musicians at the Kennedy Centermarker. She also devoted much of her time and energy in her last few decades touring colleges and grade-schools across the country.

Miscellaneous

  • Carter is mentioned along with other jazz luminaries in Gang Starr's jazz rap "Jazz Thing."




  • She is name checked in Chapter 22 of Saul Williams' "The Dead Emcee Scrolls".


Discography

Columbia


Peacock


ABC


Atco


United Artists/Capitolmarker


Roulette


Bet-Car/Verve


Compilations
  • 1990 Compact Jazz - Polygram - Bet-Car and Verve recordings from 1976 to 1987
  • 1992 I Can't Help It - Impulse!/GRP - the Out There and Modern Sound albums on one compact disc
  • 1999 Priceless Jazz - Verve Records - ABC-Paramount and Peacock Recordings from 1958 and 1960
  • 2003 Betty Carter's Finest Hour - Verve Records - Recordings from 1958 to 1992


On multi-artist compilations


References

External links




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