Betty Carter: Your Favorite Vocalist's Favorite Vocalist

Dianne Reeves. Kurt Elling. Ray Charles.

Those are just a few of the singers who've co-signed the iconic Betty Carter, whose brilliance as a vocalist, songwriter, and bandleader shaped a generation of performers.

From her early success performing with the likes of Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Ray Charles to her later career as a label head and universally respected ambassador for straight-ahead jazz, Carter earned fans everywhere she went. The forthcoming Blue Engine Records release of The Music Never Stops, her long-lost 1992 Jazz at Lincoln Center concert, gives us another opportunity to marvel at her musical genius.

Listen to our playlist to hear some of Carter's greatest hits (and some expert interpretations of her work), and read on to find out how some of today's greatest vocalists were inspired by Carter.


Dianne Reeves to NEA Arts Magazine: "I had this band in Los Angeles, and Joey [Heredia, the drummer in the band] called me. He said, 'Come down here. You got to see this lady. She’s singing. She has another show. She’s here all week at Hop Sing’s. I got a ticket for you. Just come down.' So I came all the way from Glendale, and there she was. It was the beginning of the second set, first night. When Betty Carter entered the stage, it was magnificent. When she opened her mouth to sing, it was this extraordinary spirit that poured out onto the stage. There’s this person who had this very, very broad range that had just jumped off the edge and was flying on the stage. She had this relationship with time that left you in kind of suspended animation. I went to every show, every night after that. It was like a religious experience."

Kurt Elling to Jazzitalia: "While she lived, Betty Carter was the paragon of jazz singer as total artist, total bandleader, and total business manager-head. Her recording of 'Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most' from The Audience with Betty Carter is probably the most masterful modern reinvention of a standard ballad by a vocalist to have been recorded."

Dee Dee Bridgewater to NEA Arts Magazine: "I called myself her puppy dog. I was her shadow. I would go to any performance that she would have in New York City. I would reserve my seat. I would always sit alone. I did not want to be distracted. I needed to understand what Betty Carter was doing. Betty led her own bands. I didn’t understand that. I had never seen someone with that much freedom. So my way of being on stage, that came from Betty Carter."

Betty Carter's The Music Never Stops is out March 29 on Blue Engine Records. Pre-order it today from the Jazz at Lincoln Center webstore.