Betty Carter, with Kenny Burrell – Inside Betty Carter (1964)

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NICK DERISO: Starting her career with a winning performance at a Paradise Theater amateur contest in her native Detroit, Betty Carter first came to a large number of ears as a vocalist with Lionel Hampton’s group in the late 1940s. (Hamp, in fact, is the one who gave her the early nickname Betty Bebop.)

Later, she partnered with Ray Charles for a popular series of tunes, including the timeless “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (embedded below).

That made her counting this record (as well as the 1957 LP “Out There,” on the Peacock label) as one of her favorites all the more notable.

Even on a first listen, it’s easy to see why: With the able backing of Blue Note stalwart Harold Mabern on piano (not to mention the reliable Bob Cranshaw on bass), the first half of “Inside” is solidly swinging, and a terrific example of her uniquely elastic style with the art form. (I’ve always been fond of Carter’s scorching, under two-minute rendition of the standard “My Favorite Things” from this one.)

Rebuy the album, however, if you haven’t heard a more recent Capitol reissue — which includes the welcome addition of guitarist Kenny Burrell.

Where the original pressing ended with “Something Big,” this updated edition added seven previously unreleased cuts from 1965. Burrell’s stuff ended up making the Mabern tracks sound echoingly dated and far worse for the wear, even though they are from just a year before.

A smart, inventive player, Burrell was — it’s clear now — the perfect accompaniment for Carter’s all-over-the-map style of singing. He takes as many chances as she does, earning Betty Carter’s undying praise.

Ours, too.

 

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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