Betty Carter – “You’re Mine You”

Vocalist Betty Carter was among the most respected mentor-performers of her day, famous for bringing young, up-and-coming musicians on tour and honing their talent on the road. (Pianist Benny Green and drummer Wynard Harper were both graduates of her “traveling jazz university.”) Her love of teaching would eventually lead her, in 1993, to found the Jazz Ahead program, which would serve as an even bigger launching pad for future jazz stars. One notable alumnus: pianist Jason Moran, who now oversees the program as the Artistic Director of the Kennedy Center for the Arts in Washington, D.C. (Carter, an NEA Jazz Master, passed away in 1998.)

More than an educator, Carter was also a peerless performer, with a style that exuded joy and playfulness but also a serious mastery of her craft. Her smooth, unhurried vocal inflection made her an astute interpreter of lyrics, and she had the remarkable ability to change the timbre of her voice from a delicate whisper to a roaring, full-bodied wail. The track “You’re Mine You” from her 1992 album It’s Not About the Melody reflects her overarching artistic philosophy, which involved creatively reshaping a song’s melodic contours so as to cut through to its emotional core. “It’s not about the melody,” she told the New York Times in 1992. “It’s about something else: the feeling.'”

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