Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b Lillie Mae Jones, 16 May '29, Flint MI; d 26 Sept. '98, NYC) Singer; highly regarded critically as one of the few true jazz singers around; she also wrote arrangements. Studied piano at Detroit Conservatory, won amateur show and turned pro singer '46, at first known as Betty 'Be-Bop' Carter; toured with Lionel Hampton '47-51, Miles Davis '57-9, Japan with Sonny Rollins '63, Annie Ross's club in London '64. She mainly worked in clubs and theatres but toured colleges '70s, usually with a trio (including Cameron Brown and pianist John Hicks '79). She recorded tracks for Epic '55 with the Ray Bryant trio, combined with big-band tracks the following year to make Social Call on Columbia (still later Meet Betty Carter And Ray Bryant on Columbia Legacy CD); Out There '58 was half sextet tracks and half all-star big band featuring Kenny Dorham, Ray Copeland, Benny Golson, Gigi Gryce and others, available on several labels including GRP/Impulse CD as I Can't Help It. The Modern Sound Of Betty Carter '60 and Ray Charles And Betty Carter '61 were on ABC Paramount; the '58 and '60 LPs were available in an Impulse reissue called What A Little Moonlight Can Do. An album made mid-'60s on UA with a Harold Mabern trio was later called Inside Betty Carter on a Capital Jazz CD. Finally (recorded live) and 'Round Midnight '69, Now It's My Turn '76 were on Roulette; meanwhile she started her own label so fans could buy her work: Betty Carter 1 (made live '70), Betty Carter 2, The Audience (two-LP set), What Ever Happened To Love were on Bet-Car. Then issues and reissues on Verve: Live At The Village Vanguard '71, The Betty Carter Album '76, two-LP The Audience With Betty Carter '80 (all from Bet-Car), Duets '87 with Carmen McRae (a rare treat), Look What I Got '88, Droppin' Things '90, It's Not About The Melody '92 (with Mulgrew Miller, Christian McBride etc), live Feed The Fire '94 (with Geri Allen, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette), excellent studio set I'm Yours, You're Mine '96. She 'phrased comfortably behind the beat, making every lyric a channel of communication' (Gary Giddins).