Betty Carter: Mean to Me


Mean to Me


Betty Carter (vocals)


The Modern Sound of Betty Carter (Impulse GRD 114)

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Betty Carter (vocals),

and the Richard Wess Orchestra


Arranged and conducted by Richard Wess. Composed by Fred Ahlert and Roy Turk


Recorded: New York, August 29, 1960


Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

The year after she recorded this track, Betty Carter would get a career boost from her collaboration with Ray Charles on a high-profile release. But jazz insiders had taken notice of her ever since she started singing with Lionel Hampton under the name Betty Bebop (a label she detested) at the close of the 1940s. Here she covers a Billie Holiday classic, and makes it her own. We have all the key ingredients of Carter's greatness: her stylized delivery, an odd cross between intimate cooing and declamatory oration, her daring reconfigurations of the written melody, and her bold phrasing, which moves effortlessly behind and ahead of the beat. The best part of the song is the opening, when Carter struts her stuff with just bass as accompaniment. Soon the rest of the band enters, and tries to make this track sound like a conventional pop record. But with this idiosyncratic artist fronting the ensemble, there would be little chance of that.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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