WBGO Blog
  • WBGO's Monifa Brown: The Fearless Betty Carter

    April 17, 2015. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    I love Betty Carter.  Four simple words, straight from my heart, and undoubtedly true.

    As a musician and woman, Betty Carter embodied a spirit, strength and uncompromising vision I deeply admire.  Her take-no-prisoners-attitude demanded excellence at every turn. She was fearless.

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    Betty Carter in Prague, 1986; photo by Gampe

    Betty had an unerring and unwavering commitment to present her music – her way. In an industry dominated by men, she paved her own road, staying true to her artistic vision and poured her love for this music into generations of musicians.

    She was also an entrepreneur. When the industry was not living up to her expectations, she founded her own label, Bet-Car Records, to bring her music to the people.

    Betty also gave me some of the best advice I  ever received. Anyone who knew her, knows she was never one to mince words.

    One evening, here’s what she said to this once timid teenage girl:

    “Never be afraid to do or ask for what you want.”

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    These words were imparted to me at the now defunct Bottom Line, where we sat in the audience listening to Carmen McRae.  They are words that I find myself coming back to, time and time again.

    In the 90s, I got to tour with Betty as the publicist on an educational program sponsored by Harmon International. That experience and others confirmed for me her genuine desire to mentor and cultivate new talent.

    Betty “schooled” many of the baddest musicians on the jazz scene today. Betty’s bands nurtured the talents of Harold Mabern, Eric Harland, Kenny Washington, Curtis Lundy, Benny Green, Cyrus Chestnut, Winard Harper…  the list goes on.

    Need I say more?!

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    Betty Carter in San Francisco, 1979; photo by Brian McMillen

    Betty’s voice is instantly recognizable. “It’s not about the melody,” she once said, and in listening to her sing a single phrase you understand why.

    Betty's otherworldly improvisatory explorations, keen sense of harmonics and remarkable ability to swoop in and sing the notes in between  notes are pure magic.

    Her rhythmic fluidity coupled by her ability to connect with her audience and create intense and theatrical drama, are unparallel.

    When Betty Carter took the stage she came to work and she made the cats in her band get down to business too!

    There will never be another Betty Carter.   Thank you for your spirit, your wisdom and courageous musical spirit!

    -Monifa Brown, host of WBGO's Saturday Afternoon Jazz

    Follow on twitter @Globaljazzqueen

  • Celebrating Billie Holiday's Centennial With Cassandra Wilson

    April 17, 2015

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    Cassandra Wilson. (Image Credit: Mark Seliger/Courtesy of the artist)

    Among the celebrations of Billie Holiday's centennial birthday anniversary is a new album from Cassandra Wilson. In Coming Forth By Day, one of today's top jazz vocalists salutes one of her idols, drastically rearranging the Holiday songbook.

    Jazz Night In America features Cassandra Wilson's blues, country and folk-tinged delivery as she performs her Billie Holiday tribute, and catches up with some key collaborators of both Wilson and Holiday herself.

    Copyright 2015 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit .

  • Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt: Listen Now

    April 16, 2015. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt talks with Rhonda Hamilton about his CD "Tales, Musings And Other Reveries." Pelt performs with his quintet to celebrate the CD release at New York's Smoke April 17 to 19. Enjoy!

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    Photo by Tim Wilkins