Vocalist Betty Carter, who says she's one of the "other Carters," might be considered an insider if she were judged solely on the basis of her marvelous performances.
Carter's opening at Blues Alley on Monday night was a powerful display of vocal pyrotechnics and sensitive [WORD ILLEGIBLE] that changed well-known standards into different songs.
She was also delightful in the magnificient way she projected herself visually. While sailing on one of those long swoops from high to low notes, she would arch her back dramatically, thrust her head and shoulders forward or just stalk the audience as if it was delicious prey.
Carter's approach is to explore songs such as "Spring Will You Up the Most" or "But Beautiful" as a jazz instrumentalist, which means the melody is barely recognizable from the outset. This also means that she runs the risk of being highly stylized because her approach is similar in many cases.
She doesn't interpret a standard like "Alone Together" for what the composer wrote as much as she superimposes her total personality on a song. This is a fruitful technique, but it has limitations if it is used exclusively. Sometimes it is rewarding to hear melody sung with simplicity and charm.
None of this opinion is meant to detract from Carter's artistry. She was stunning in her rendition of songs associated with Charlie Parker and John Coltrane and on a sensual reading of Carlos Garnett's "Caribbean Sun."
The singer is superby accompanied by pianist John Hicks, bassist Drive Holland and drummer Clifford Barbaro, who performs alone at the beginning of each set. The engagement ends Saturday.