Before & After: Dianne Reeves

By Larry Appelbaum

 2015 was a banner year for Dianne Reeves, winning a Grammy for Beautiful Life and receiving her honorary doctorate from the Juilliard School. She spent a good part of the past 12 months working on her follow-up Concord disc and touring both stateside and abroad. We met for this session during her summer stop at the Alfa Jazz Festival in Lviv. Eager to hear her thoughts on a handful of recent releases, we also served up collaborations between Mahalia Jackson and Duke Ellington, her cousin George Duke with Kamasi Washington, Portland-based singer Nancy King with bassist Glen Moore, and an oddly awkward Carmen McRae curiosity with Ben Webster from 1958.

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Interview with Betty Carter

betty carterWhen I first started at WPFW, I naively tried to arrange an interview with one of my vocal heroes, Betty Carter. As a young man, I had more nerve than skills or common sense, not realizing I would have to pass her test before she’d agree to invest her time with someone so green. I went to Blues Alley two nights in a row before even approaching her. When I did, she asked me some questions, then sang a bit of melody in my ear and asked me if I knew the tune. I lucked out and told her it was the verse to “Stardust,” after which she agreed to give me 15 minutes following the next set.


You tour all over the world. What do you think of the way jazz is presented on radio in this country?

 Lousy! [laughs]. Not enough of it to expose the young kids to it, to make them aware of what’s been going on and what is going on. There’s really not enough music on the radio, jazz that is.

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Before & After: Karrin Allyson

I met vocalist Karrin Allyson for this B&A just before her sold-out appearance at the Kennedy Center. Like an experienced road warrior, she arrived in town without a moment to spare, gave herself a minute to put her bags in her room, and then joined me for this in-depth listening session. She was relieved that she didn’t have to give stars for each record.

1. Maxine Sullivan
“Massachusetts” (from A Tribute To Andy Razaf, DCC Jazz). Recorded in 1956. Sullivan, vocals; Charlie Shavers, trumpet; Buster Bailey, clarinet; Jerome Richardson, saxophone; Dick Hyman, piano; Milt Hinton, bass; Osie Johnson, drums.

BEFORE: Well, I guess it’s Ella, but it sure didn’t sound like her at first. [listens more] No, I don’t know this voice. It sounds like the 1940s. It’s delightful. She’s great-her time, her personality. I mean she swings like crazy. Whoever she is I love her. Wonderful swinging band behind her. I’m stumped. Never heard the tune, either. She has a little of Ella’s sound to her. Cool.

AFTER: Yeah, this is a singer I need to know more about. A lot of folks that I admire love her too. She sounds very classic to me. Like if anyone asked what a jazz singer sounds like, I’d put her on. It’s so swinging and her pitch is great.

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