Pinky’S Waltz: Keter Betts, Live at Montpelier!
(Recorded in 2001 and released in 2002)
- BDK Blues
- Pinky’s Waltz
- Like Someone in Love
- Take the ‘A’ Train
- But Beautiful
- Vivi’s Waltz
- Dancing in the Dark
- G Blues
The Montpelier Arts Center’s jazz series was built on the strong foundation provided by Buck Hill and Keter Betts. Buck Hill’s first concert was in 1984 and Keter Betts’ first concert was in 1985; to everyone’s great delight they have returned every year since. It is only fitting that Keter should be featured on this, our third live recording project.
Anyone attending a Keter Betts concert has come to expect the most sophisticated and polished musicianship and an extraordinarily entertaining evening, thanks to his remarkable sense of humor. In addition to bringing exciting, experimental artists like O’Donnell Levy, Grady Tate, Bertell Knox, Charles Covington, Bill Charlap, and Dennis Mackrel to the stage, Keter always brings along an extra surprise. One year, after he played a solo, he excused himself to get his bow and presumably returned to his trio. Instead, a young man (Joe Webb) came up on stage and started moving instruments around. While moving the piano his foot made a loud tap and he instantly broke into an amazingly exuberant tap dance. Another year, Keter explained that the trio (Keter, Charles Covington, and Bertell Knox) needed to make a wardrobe change. Thirty seconds after they left the stage three beautiful young women appeared and launched into a medley of exquisite string pieces. After their performance, they left the stage and when Keter returned, he asked if the audience liked his other outfit (later he introduced the members of the jazz string trio, Hue). It is typical of Keter to end a concert with a comment like: “I guess we will be back in January because I heard Richard say that it’ll be a cold day in winter before I have those guys back.”
In addition to his great sense of humor, the evocative, emotional power of Keter’s music also connects with every audience. This recording captures one of the most sensitive of these connections with the performance of his tribute to his wife, “Pinky’s Waltz.”
The Montpelier Arts Center is very appreciative of Keter Bett’s immeasurable contributions to the success of the Montpelier Jazz Series and is honored to have the opportunity to release this recording. - Richard Zandler, 2002
Keter Betts was one of the finest bassists of the second half of the Twentieth century. He was born on June 22, 1928, in Port Chester, New York, studied music in New York City, and began his professional career in Washington D.C. in 1947, a year after graduating from high school. Post-war Washington was one of the country’s best incubators for new talent and young Keter made the most of the opportunity, sitting in with all the jazz legends who came to town. As he honed his skills in Washington, his reputation spread and bandleaders in New York regularly sought his services. Early jobs were with Earl Bostic (1949) and Dinah Washington. In 1957, he began working with Charlie Byrd in groups that included musicians like Buck Hill, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Stan Getz. During the same period, he also worked with Nat and Julian (Cannonball) Adderley.
Keter Betts began his long-time association with Ella Fitzgerald in 1965 at a concert in Hamburg, Germany, as a member of the Tommy Flanagan Trio. He became her full-time bassist in 1971 and stayed with her band through her final performance in 1992. With Ella, he collaborated with giants like Tommy Flanagan, Count Basie, Joe Pass, Dizzy Gillespie, and Duke Ellington.
During his long career, Keter Betts traveled all over the world (many times over), but kept the Washington area his home, marrying and raising five children here. In addition to his demanding tour schedule, Keter devoted much of his time to performing and presenting workshops in schools, especially in the Washington D.C. area. Besides performing at least once a year at Montpelier, he regularly performed for the Maryland - National Capital Park and Planning Commission’s Arts Alive program, as well as at Montpelier’s sister's facilities, The Public Playhouse, and the Harmony Hall Regional Center’s John Addison Concert Hall. Keter Betts is featured on many classic jazz recordings by great names in jazz (e.g., Cannonball Adderley - Verve Jazz Masters 31 and Count Basie - Golden Years). He has recently released two of his own albums with fabulous results - Bass, Buddies, and Blues and Bass, Buddies, Blues, and Beauty Too (Ethel Ennis is the Beauty).
(Mr. Betts passed away in August 2006.)