Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Jazz is becoming commercial again - at least something that most people are agreeing to call jazz. But I think it will be a while before the Capital Centre, or even Constitution Hall, is ready for vocalist Betty Carter, and I suspect that if she ever cut a gold record she would begin to wonder what was wrong.
Like any art that goes beyond easy cliche, Carter's is a somewhat specialized taste; you have to work a bit at developing it, but then it becomes a permanent and treasured acquisition.
A couple of weeks ago, Washington audiences demonstrated that we don't have enough people with that taste to support an elaborate, ambitious "Festival of New Music." But that audience seems large enough to fill Blues Alley, where Carter will be through Saturday night, and if you want to catch her act it would be a good idea to make a reservation.
Now and again, her voice touches a note and you remember from the original melody, but most of the time she sings a variation - for example, a counter-melody that harmonizes with the original tune if you have it running in your mind - without bothering to present the original theme at all.
In this, as in the rather stiff, hieratic gestures that accompany her singing, she clearly avoids easy popularity and the earthy roots of jazz; she compares to a more traditional singer such as Ethel Ennis somewhat as Schoenberg compares to Brahms in classical music.