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30 January 2010

Ray Charles And Betty Carter (1961)

  1. Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye
  2. You And I
  3. Goodbye/We'll Be Together Again
  4. People Will Say We're In Love
  5. Cocktails For Two
  6. Side By Side
  7. Baby, It's Cold Outside
  8. Together
  9. For All We Know
  10. Takes Two To Tango
  11. Alone Together
  12. Just You, Just Me
From 1960 to 1962 Betty Carter frequently toured with the Ray Charles band. Ray loved her "free jazz voice". Since they were both signed to ABC Records, it was easy to record together (there's also a story that Miles Davis, who in early 1960 toured with Betty, suggested to Ray to take her under his wing, or - more specifically - do duets with her). "He asked me in Baltimore, in the hallway by the dressing rooms," Betty recalled in Pulse! "After he asked me, it got silent; I mean, he had Georgia going, a bi-iii-ig hit record; he didn’t need me. I went to his house to work on the tunes, and then went back to the hotel numb because I was really gonna do it. I learned the tunes by thinking about it more than practicing them; we didn’t go over anything more than one time, because I was capable of understanding everything he said to me about what to do and how to do it."
The pairing of their totally idiosyncratic vocal styles resulted in a beautiful album. Their sexy and funny rendition of Baby, It’s Cold Outside became a real classic.
Marty Paich's string/choir arrangements, as usual, sound a bit overdone, but his charts for the band are excellent.

Engineer Steve Hoffman shared his memories on a remastering session with Ray (here):
"I remember doing that session in the dark, just the glow of the equipment for illumination. Ray had called Betty Carter on the phone that morning for a chat, then he was reading Esquire (Braille version) and Terry [Howard] and I mucked around a bit with the sound presentation, finally backing off on most EQ altogether. We did the initial transfer and asked Ray what he liked or didn't like about it. He told me that it sounded better to him than he remembered and he liked that I didn't try to boost the treble on the orchestra. I told him that a treble boost would have made their voices sound unnatural and also brought up the tape hiss so it would never be a good idea on intimate music like that. He agreed, thanked me, listened for a while and nodded. I have a feeling he had not heard that material in a long, long time. He was very sensitive to the fact that the ABC-Paramount LP sold about eight copies initially and always felt that the album was unjustly neglected over the years."
Hank Crawford - alto saxophone; David Fathead Newman - tenor saxophone; Leroy Cooper - baritone saxophone; Bill Pittman - guitar; Edgar Willis - bass; Mel Lewis, Bruno Carr - drums; The Jack Halloran Singers - background vocals; Marty Paich - arranger, conductor; Sid Feller - producer.
Recorded at United Studios, Hollywood on June 13-14, 1961. ABC/Paramount 385, 1961-07.

For more details, and Betty's side of the story, read this. Here's an interview with Betty Carter by Bill King (1988):

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