Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hello: Tell Him I Said Hello

Betty Carter and the Ray Bryant Trio: Tell Him I Said Hello


My introduction to jazz singing was Joni Mitchell’s version of Twisted. It was an exciting bit of vocal gymnastics with a wonderful sense of playfulness. For a long time, that’s what I thought jazz singing was all about. But there is also a more serious side. A great jazz singer like Betty Carter can instill a ballad with emotional richness and complexity. Listen to Tell Him I Said Hello, and you will hear a woman torn between desire and despair. She wants to be hopeful that her lover will return to her, but she fears that letting him see this will scare him away. She tries to keep all of this bottled up inside, but the feelings are simply too powerful. You might say that that is too much information for a song that is less than three minutes long to carry. But not only does Carter’s performance make it possible, she even manages to sum all of this up at the end with just one word: hello. With a singer this fine, there is no need to force the issue by piling on strings and other instruments. Ray Bryant and his group only need a piano, bass, and some wonderful brush work on drums. Carter does the rest, brilliantly.

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