Betty Carter: Droppin' Things


Droppin' Things


Betty Carter (vocals)


Droppin' Things (Verve 843 991)

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Betty Carter (vocals), Freddie Hubbard (trumpet),

Craig Handy (tenor sax), Marc Carey (piano), Tarus Mateen (bass), Gregory Hutchinson (drums)


Composed by Betty Carter


Recorded: The Bottom Line, New York, May 25 or 26, 1990


Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

Unlike many jazz musicians who found their niche and stuck with it, Betty Carter continued to experiment with her music throughout her career. While she never abandoned standards, she included several of her own compositions in her repertoire. As the years went on, her elastic concept of rhythm became more pronounced, and her scatting became an even more important component of her style. Starting in the 1970s, she hired young apprentice musicians who were eager for their big break. While Carter was a tough boss, many of the musicians who worked with her found the experience very valuable.

“Droppin’ Things” is based on Carter’s scat tune, “Jumps”. It sounds like Carter hadn't decided whether the song should be started in duple or triple time. In fact, the recording includes a false start in 2/4 time before restarting in 3/4. The time moves back and forth between the two meters, even during the solos. To further cloud the meter, Carter sings her melody in straight quarter notes without any downbeat implied. In the second A section, bassist Tarus Mateen plays so fast, there is no clear sense of time signature. To keep all of this together, Carter has guest instrumentalists Freddie Hubbard and Craig Handy solo on the harmonies of the bridge, and she inserts segments of the melody as signposts. Carter’s own scat solo uses a single scale instead of the chord changes so that the signposts are not necessary as she improvises. Her solo, based on short ideas, morphs into a musical conversation, starting with Carey, who is eventually joined by Hubbard and Handy. The tension builds steadily for nearly two minutes, and then there is a slight repose before Carter closes the performance with the main motive of her melody.

Reviewer: Thomas Cunniffe

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