JazzTimes‘ Christopher Porter, amusingly, conducted his interview with bass legend, Keter Betts, at Silver Spring, Maryland‘s humble 9-hole Sligo Creek Golf Course due to its proximity to both Betts’ home and JazzTimes‘ editorial office. .From Porter’s 2002 JazzTimes piece, I learned that —
- Ray Brown, another jazz bass giant, was Betts’ frequent golfing buddy;
- Renowned bassist, Milt Hinton, had convinced Betts as a teen to switch from the drums to the upright bass;
- King recording artist, Earl Bostic, gave Betts his “first huge gig” when the bandleader hired him away from saxophonist Rick Henderson following a performance at Washington, DC’s Club Bali.
Hinton initially met Betts in 1946 backstage in New York City after a Cab Calloway show, where the younger musician had hoped, unsuccessfully, to meet Calloway’s impressive new drummer (and future King session musician), David “Panama” Francis. .Years later, Betts recounted the humorous exchange for Christopher Porter: .“We were on a cruise one time, and I said, ‘Panama, it’s because I came to meet you, and I didn’t meet you, and I met [Hinton] that I switched to bass.’ .And he said, ‘I’m glad you didn’t meet me.’”
As I would learn from Edward Ordman in his piece for The Christian Science Monitor, “How a Famous Musician Learned a New Tune,” Betts was not only Ella Fitzgerald’s longtime bassist and musician of choice for many top names in jazz but also a great music educator and humanitarian who shared his art with students in the DC area, doing as many as 100 performances in a year through various programs, including Washington Performing Arts Society’s Concerts in Schools and Prince George’s County Arts Alive. Betts also initiated a program with the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts of special performances at Wolf Trap for preschool students in the Head Start program.
According to his Kennedy Center bio, Betts served as the musical coordinator for jazz programming at Black Entertainment Television and also as a music lecturer at Howard University. A member of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Big Band, Betts was inducted into the Washington Area Music Association Hall of Fame in 1994 and received the Living Legacy Jazz Award from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation in 2003. Betts is also a recipient of the Benny Golson Jazz Master Award. Betts, too, was a bandleader and composer whose most notable composition – in the eyes of the National Visionary Leadership Project – was “Pinky’s Waltz,” in memory of his wife, Mildred Grady Betts.
Betts was also an avid photographer, whose images of musicians and figures in DC’s jazz scene of the 1950s & 60s was shown retrospectively at the Silver Spring Civic Building in 2015, thanks to help from Keter’s daughter, Jennifer Betts.
Zero to 180’s recording chronology of Betts (below) reveals that the beloved bassist had been an active artist until the very end, having recorded a golf-themed album with James Brown alumnus, Fred Wesley, just two months before his passing.
Keter Betts — Recording Chronology
click on song titles for streaming audio (where available)
Photo: The Kennedy Center
Earl Bostic & His Orchestra — May 28, 1949
Notes: Betts played bass on this NYC session for King Records, one that produced four songs and are among his earliest performances on record, in all likelihood — “Nay! Nay! Go ‘Way!“; “Who Snuck the Wine in the Gravy” & “Earl’s Blues.”
Earl Bostic & His Orchestra — August 2, 1949
“Henry Bernard” — pseudonym for Henry Glover
Earl Bostic & His Orchestra — March 23, 1950
Earl Bostic & His Orchestra — October 13, 1950
Earl Bostic & His Orchestra — January 10 & January 23, 1951
Notes: Betts’ final sessions for Bostic (with Jimmy Cobb on drums & Rene Hall on guitar) included two big hits for the bandleader — “Flamingo” and “Sleep” — along with “Rockin’ and Reelin’“; “September Song“; “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love“; “Always“; “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” and “How Could It Have Been You and I.”
Notes: Both songs were recorded in NYC on September 24, 1951 and released as a 78. According to 78RPM contributor, xiphophilos, “the uncredited orchestra is Nook Shrier Orchestra: . Paul Quinichette (tenor saxophone); Wynton Kelly (piano); Freddie Green (guitar); Keter Betts (bass); Jimmy Cobb or Gus Johnson (drums); Dinah Washington (vocals); unidentified brass; Nook Shrier (conductor).
Earl Bostic & His Orchestra — April 7, 1952 [?]
Notes: Vogue’s claim that Betts played bass on an Earl Bostic session that included a young John “Coltraine” conflicts with the King recording session information compiled by Michel Ruppli, who says that Ike Isaacs played bass on “Moonglow,” as well as “Velvet Sunset”; “Linger Awhile” & “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”
Arnett Cobb And His Mob Featuring Dinah Washington — Arnett Cobb And His Mob In Concert Featuring Dinah Washington — 
Notes: Betts is part of a trio – with Jimmy Cobb (drums) and Johnny Acea (piano) – that accompanies Washington on seven tracks that do not include Cobb, interestingly, or any of his mob: “It’s Too Soon to Know“; “Only a Moment Ago“; “Make Believe Dreams“; “Journey’s End“; “Dinah Speaks“; “It’s Magic” & “I Got It Bad.” Recorded live in New York City, June 27, 1952 but only released in 2000.
Dinah Washington — After Hours With Miss D — 1954
Notes: Dinah enjoys support from Keter “Bettis” (bass), along with Ed “Thippen” (drums), Candido (bongos), “Julian” Mance (piano), Clark Terry (trumpet), Gus Chappell (trombone), Rickie Henderson (alto sax) & Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis (tenor sax). Album includes “Bye Bye Blues“; “Pennies from Heaven“; Gershwin’s “A Foggy Day” & Duke Ellington’s “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart.”
Clifford Brown, Maynard Ferguson, Clark Terry, Max Roach, Keter Betts, Junior Mance & Co. — Jam Session — 1954
Notes: LP consists of four tracks, with Dinah Washington giving the lone vocal performance on “Darn That Dream.” “What Is This Thing Called Love?‘ and “Move” – both released as “extended” 45s – were recorded live with audience in Los Angeles on August 14, 1954. Bass parts shared by Betts and George Morrow, with Herb Geller (alto sax), Harold Land (tenor sax), Junior Mance & Richie Powell (piano), and Brown, Ferguson & Terry (all on trumpet).
LP – US
45 Picture sleeve – Sweden
Dinah Washington — Dinah Jams — 1955
Notes: Betts teams up with Max Roach (drums), Junior Mance & Richie Powell (piano), Clark Terry, Clifford Brown & Maynard Ferguson (trumpet), Harold Land (tenor sax) & Herb Geller (alto sax). Cash Box‘s January 29, 1955 edition included an album review that was unqualified in its praise: “You just can’t beat Dinah Washington. She’s definitely one of jazzdom’s top songstresses and the queen of the blues. When Dinah sings, she sings from the toes.” Album includes “Lover Come Back to Me“; “Come Rain or Come Shine“; “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” & “You Go To My Head.”
Dinah Washington — For Those in Love — 1955
Notes: Arranged by Quincy Jones and featuring Betts, along with Jimmy Cobb (drums), Wynton Kelly (piano), Barry Galbraith (guitar), Clark Terry (trumpet), Jimmy Cleveland (trombone), Paul Quinichette (tenor sax), and Cecil Payne (baritone sax). Album includes “I Get a Kick Out of You“; “Easy Living“; “This Can’t Be Love” & “Make the Man Love Me.”
Dinah Washington — Dinah! — 1956
Notes: Betts accompanies Jimmy Cobb (drums), along with Wynton Kelly (piano), Herb Geller (alto sax), and George Auld (tenor sax). Album includes “Look to the Rainbow“; “Cottage for Sale“; “There’ll Be Some Changes Made“& “Make Me a Present of You.”
J.J. Johnson, Howard McGhee, Oscar Pettiford, Keter Betts, Rudy Williams & Charlie Rice — Jazz South Pacific — 1956
Notes: Recorded in concert on Guam — “Ketter” Betts on guitar and Oscar Pettiford on bass.
Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley — In the Land of Hi-Fi — 1956
Notes: Recorded in NYC on June 8, 16 & 18, 1956, with accompaniment by Betts, along with Charlie “Specs” Wright (drums), Nat Adderley (cornet), Jerome Richardson (tenor sax & flute), Bobby Byrne & Jimmy Cleveland (trombone), Ernie Royal (trumpet) & Danny Bank (baritone sax). Album includes “Dog My Cats“; “Blues for Bohemia” & “Little Girl Blue.”
Charlie Byrd — Blues for Night People — 1957
Woody Herman Sextet — At the Roundtable — 1959
Notes: Herman (clarinet/alto sax) is backed by Betts, along with Jimmy Campbell (drums), Charlie Byrd (guitar), Eddie Costa (piano), and Nat Adderley (trumpet). Album includes “Black Nightgown“; “Moten Swing” & “The Late Late Show.”
Charlie Byrd — Jazz at the Showboat — 1959
Notes: Recorded in 1958 at DC’s Edgewood Studios, with Bertell Knox & Eddie Phyfe (drums), Charlie Schneer & T. Carson (piano), Buck Hill (tenor sax), Bobby Felder (valve trombone) & Kenneth Pasmanick (bassoon) — includes “Conversation Piece,” co-written by Betts.
Charlie Byrd — Byrd in the Wind (Jazz at the Showboat Volume 2) — 1959
Notes: Billed as “Charlie Byrd, unamplified guitar, with his Showboat Trio and members of the National Symphony Winds” – includes support from Betts along with Bertell Knox (drums), Charles Schneer (piano), Buck Hill (tenor sax), Wallace Mann (flute), Richard White (oboe) & Kenneth Pasmanick (bassoon), plus liner notes by WMAL’s Felix Grant. Album includes “Swing ’59” & “Keter’s Dirty Blues.”
Nat Adderley — Work Song — 1960
Notes: Betts plays bass on “Pretty Memory“; “Fallout” & “Work Song” – also plays cello on “My Heart Stood Still.” Recorded in New York City on January 25 & 27, 1960 along with Wes Montgomery (guitar), Bobby Timmons (piano) & Sam Jones (cello).
Sam Jones — The Soul Society — 1960
Notes: Jones and Betts share bass duties on this album, which was recorded March 8 & 10, 1960 in NYC, and kicks off with the Keter Betts composition, “Some Kinda Mean” (a song covered that same year by James Clay and David “Fathead” Newman on their Sounds of the Wide Open Spaces!!!! album). Betts also appears on “So Tired” and two other tracks — excerpt from Down Beat‘s review in their September 1, 1960 edition: “Although the boss man is a bassist, Betts is unintimidated. He does not cut Jones anywhere, but he is more than an adequate performer, and his solo on ‘Mean’ really is.”
Dick Morgan — Dick Morgan at the Showboat — 1960
Dick Morgan Trio — See What I Mean? — 1960
Notes: Recorded October 31, 1960 at Plaza Sound Studios on the eighth floor of Radio City Music Hall (originally built by NBC as a rehearsal space for Arturo Toscanini and his symphony orchestra in the 1930’s) – with Bertell Knox on drums. Album includes “Rocks In My Bed” & “Meditation.”
Charlie Byrd Trio – with Keter Betts & Bertell Knox — Jazz At The Showboat Volume 3 — 1960
Charlie Byrd Trio – with Keter Betts & Buddy Deppenschmidt — Charlie’s Choice (Jazz at the Showboat Volume 4) — 1960
Notes: This album, according to Willis Conover’s liner notes, was “programmed for the Voice of America” radio network – includes the Keter Betts composition, “Ring Them Harmonics.” Excerpt from Down Beat‘s review in their April 27, 1961 edition: “Betts plays extremely well in the Byrd context, whether soloing – he has a little solo on his own ‘Harmonics’ – or accompanying the guitarist. He does not merely back Byrd but becomes like another hand, or in this case, another finger.”
Sam Jones Plus 10 — The Chant — 1961
Notes: Cellist/bassist Jones supported by Betts (bass), Louis Hayes (drums), Blue Mitchell (trumpet), Nat Adderley (cornet), Melba Liston (trombone), Les Spann (guitar), Wynton Kelly (piano), Victor Feldman (piano/vibes), Jimmy Heath (tenor sax) & Tate Houston (baritone sax). Betts can be heard on “Sonny Boy“; “In Walked Ray“; “Bluebird” & “Over the Rainbow.”
Charlie Byrd — At the Village Vanguard — 1961
Notes: Live trio (with Betts on bass and Deppenschmidt on drums) recorded January 15, 1961 in NYC. This album, which is released in the UK under the title, Whose Side Are You On?, includes “Just Squeeze Me” & “Fantasia or Which Side Are You On?“
Charlie Byrd — Blues Sonata — 1962
Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd — Jazz Samba — 1962
Notes: Recorded in Pierce Hall, All Souls Unitarian Church, Washington D.C., February 13, 1962. This album, which set off an international bossa nova craze, was inspired by a US State Department tour stop in Brazil the previous year. . Drummer Buddy Deppenschmidt asserts that it was he and Betts who had to persuade Byrd of the Brazilian music’s viability, as noted by JazzTimes‘ David R. Adler in a 2021 piece published shortly after the drummer’s passing. Album includes “Desafinado” & “Samba De Uma Nota So.”
Charlie Byrd — Bossa Nova Pelos Passaros — 1962
Notes: The Charlie Byrd Trio supplemented by Willie Rodriguez (percussion), Charlie Hampton (flute & alto sax), Earl Swope (trombone) & the Walter Raim Strings — contains the hit “Meditation.”
Herb Ellis & The Charlie Byrd Trio — The Navy Swings — [c. early 1960s]
Notes: A UK CD compilation of four radio programs that were used to promote US Navy recruiting between 1957 and 1970. The presence of several bossa nova songs and Toots Thielemans’ “Bluesette” suggests early 1960s recording dates.
Donal(d) Leace & Carol Hedin — At the Shadows — 1962
Notes: This recording was made at The Shadows restaurant (later, DC’s famed Cellar Door) in Georgetown on Sunday afternoon September 16, 1962. Donal Leace, “Washington’s favorite folk singer” (whose given name was either “Anglicized” as Donald or, as Richard Harrington tells Zero to 180, “a Post typesetter left the ‘d’ off a Cellar Door ad and he liked it”), and Carol Hedin each get an entire album side, both backed by bassist Betts. Ten years later, Leace would record an album for Atlantic backed by Keith Jarrett, among others.
LP back cover
Alan Damron — “Come Go With Me” b/w “The Partisan Song” — 1963
Notes: Damron is backed by Betts and Lee Johnson on this 45 released by DC indie label, Franc.
Charlie Byrd Trio & Guests — Byrd at the Gate — 1963
Notes: Recorded at NYC’s Village Gate on May 9 &10, 1963 with Bill Reichenbach (drums), Seldon Powell (tenor sax) & Clark Terry (trumpet). Live performance includes “Shiny Stockings” & “Ela Me Deixou.”
Bobby Timmons — Chun-King — 1965
Bobby Timmons with Johnny Lytle — Workin’ Out! — 1965
Helen Merrill — The Artistry of Helen Merrill — 1965
Notes: Betts and Teddy Kotick share bass duties on this album.
Ella Fitzgerald — Ella in Hamburg — 1965
Stan Getz & João Gilberto — Getz/Gilberto #2 — 1966
Notes: Recorded Live at Carnegie Hall, October 9, 1964. Betts plays on side two (the “Joao Gilberto side”) along with drummer, Hélcio Milito, on such songs as “Samba Da Minha Terra“; “Bim Bom“; “Meditation” & “O Pato (The Duck).”
Tommy Gwaltney, Steve Jordan, Keter Betts & John Philips — This Is Blues Alley — 1966
Notes: Recorded in two sessions, one late 1965 and the other in early 1966 with Gwaltney (clarinet & vibes), Jordan (guitar & vocal), Betts (bass), and Philips (piano). This album was recorded by Blues Alley owner Gwaltney around the launch of DC’s famous jazz and blues venue. A couple of tracks were done before a “live” audience, but most were done during the afternoon when the Georgetown club was closed. Album includes “Keter’s Blues.”
Jimmy McPartland & His All-Stars — On Stage — [c. 1966]
Notes: According to Discogs, probably recorded at the first Manassas Jazz Festival in 1966, though it is unclear in the liner notes when it was recorded. Betts is part of a backing ensemble that includes Tommy Gwaltney (reeds), Steve Jordan (guitar), “Slide” Harris (trombone), and Jake Hanna (drums) among others. Marian McPartland starts “When The Saints Go Marching In” abd gives way to Bob Greene, who is then replaced by Cliff Jackson. Album includes “Muskrat Ramble.”
Will Bill Davison — Wild Bill at Bull Run — 1966
Notes: Recorded on Sunday afternoon in late September 1966 at Osbourne High School auditorium in Manassas, with musical backing from Betts along with Bertell Knox (drums), Tommy Gwaltney (clarinet), “Slide” Harris (trombone), John Eaton (piano), and Steve Jordan (guitar).
Mt. Holyoke College’s Dept. of Education — Music for Synchronized Swimming — 1966
Notes: Music written by pianist Evelyn Lohoefer De Boeck, with support from Betts (bass) and Bertell Knox (drums). Rhythmic swimming routines, creative swimming studies – each track is a locked groove.
Donna Drake — Donna Does Dinah — 1968
Ella Fitzgerald – with the Fraser McPherson Big Band & Tee Carson Trio — Live From the Cave Supper Club – Vancouver – May 19, 1968 — 
Notes: Live album that includes big band arrangements, as well as six selections with Ella backed by Tee Carson (pianist), Betts (bass), and Joe Harris (drums) — includes “Girl Talk” & “Goin’ Out of My Head.”
Ella Fitzgerald — Live at Chautauqua, Volume 1 [July 11, 1968] — 
Notes: Fitzgerald recorded live on July 11, 1968 at the Chautauqua Institution Amphitheater, NY backed by Betts along with Tee Carson (piano) and Joe Harris (drums) — includes “For Once In My Life.”
Ella Fitzgerald — Ella Loves Cole — 1972
Notes: Recorded at Hollywood’s MGM Recording Studios with Ed Thigpen (drums), Tommy Flanagan (piano), Victor Feldman (vibes) & Harry Edison (trumpet) — includes “I Concentrate On You.”
Ella Fitzgerald — Newport Jazz Festival Live at Carnegie Hall — 1973
Notes: Betts is part of The Jazz at Carnegie All-Stars (side 3), who back Ella on the medley “Can’t Get Started”/”The Young Man With the Horn”/”‘Round Midnight”; “Star Dust” & “C Jam Blues.”
Ella Fitzgerald — Ella in London — 1974
Notes: Recorded at Ronnie Scott’s April 11, 1974 with Bobby Durham (drums), Joe Pass (guitar), and Tommy Flanagan (piano).
Ella Fitzgerald — At the Montreux Jazz Festival — 1975
Notes: Recorded July 17, 1975 with Fitzgerald backed by Tommy Flanagan, Keter Betts, and Bobby Dunham — includes “Wave.”
Keter Betts, Benny Carter, Zoot Sims, Roy Eldridge, Clark Terry, Joe Pass & Tommy Flanagan — JATP (Jazz at the Philharmonic at the Montreux Jazz Festival) — 1975
Notes: Recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival July 16th, 1975.
Tommy Flanagan Trio — The Tommy Flanagan Tokyo Recital — 1975
Notes: Recorded in Tokyo, Japan on February 15, 1975 — includes “All Day Long.”
LP – Japan
Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis with The Tommy Flanagan Trio — Straight Ahead — 1976
Notes: Recorded May, 3, 1976 at RCA Studios in Los Angeles — audio link to the title track, “Straight Ahead.”
Pug Horton — Kitchenman — 1976
Notes: Vocalist Horton is backed by Betts, along with Jack Connor (drums), Don Ewell (piano), Jack Maheu (clarinet), Ernie Carson (cornet) & Mark Lamphier (trombone).
Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Joe Pass & Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen — Digital III at Montreux — 1980
Notes: Recorded July 12, 1979. Mountain Studios, Montreux, Switzerland — Betts plays on (I Don’t Stand A) Ghost Of A Chance (With You)” & “Flying Home.”
Tommy Flanagan 3 – Keter Betts and Bobby Durham — Montreux ’77 — 1977
Notes: Recorded July 13, 1977 – album produced by Norman Granz.
Ella Fitzgerald with the Tommy Flanagan 3 — Montreux ’77 — 1977
Notes: Recorded July 14, 1977 at Montreux — includes “Too Close For Comfort.”
LP cover – Germany
Tommy Flanagan — Something Borrowed, Something Blue — 1978
Notes: Recorded (January 30, 1978), mixed, and mastered at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley – Jimmie Smith on drums. Link to audio of the title track, “Something Borrowed, Something Blue.”
Waymon Reed — 46th and 8th — 1979
Notes: Trumpeter Reed (who ten years earlier had co-written “You Got to Have a Job (If You Don’t Work, You Can’t Eat)” with James Brown as a duet for the bandleader and Marva Whitney) is backed by Betts, along with Bobby Durham (drums), Tommy Flanagan (piano), Jimmy Forest (sax) on an album recorded at NYC’s Sound Ideas Studios. LP includes 8-page booklet that contains specially commissioned art & photography, transcribed solos, lead sheets, discographies, notes by the artist and critics.
The Super Jazz Trio — The Super Jazz Trio*— 1979
Notes: Tommy Flanagan (piano), Reggie Workman (bass), and Joe Chambers (drums) comprise the Super Jazz Trio, whose first four albums were originally released in Japan. The 2009 European reissue* of their self-titled album (retitled Condado Beach), curiously, includes Keter Betts on five additional selections that were recorded Nov. 3-5, 1977 in NYC: “Strictly Confidential”; “Dance of the Infidels”; “Bouncing With Bud”; “I’ll Keep Loving You” & “So Sorry, Please.”
The Clayton Brothers — Jeff and John — 1979
Notes: Album includes the sole recording (possibly) of the Keter Betts composition, “Walkin’ Bass” (with its delightfully “drunken” passage around the 2:40 mark).
Ella & Basie — A Perfect Match — 1980
Notes: Recorded July 12, 1979 at Mountain Studio in Montreux, Switzerland, with Betts accompanied by Mickey Roker (drums) Freddie Green (guitar) plus a dozen or so horn players — includes “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone” & “Fine and Mellow.”
LP – front & back covers
Count Basie & Orchestra — On the Road — 1980
Notes: Basie accompanied by Betts, along with Mickey Roker (drums) and Freddie Green (guitar) plus a dozen or so horn players — includes “Wind Machine.”
Ella Fitzgerald — Live in Tokyo — 
Notes: DVD (released in Europe in 2008) of a performance filmed live at Yoyogi National Stadium, Tokyo, Japan, October 17, 1983. Betts is part of the Paul Smith Trio, who back Ella on the first eight selections.
Pete Minger, Keter Betts, Bobby Durham, Dolph, Castellano — Straight From the Source — 1983
Notes: Trumpeter/flugelhornist who played with Count Basie from 1970-1980.
Magpie – Terry Leonino & Greg Artzner — If It Ain’t Love — 1986
Notes: Leonino (vocals, dulcimer, mandolin, harmonica) and Artzner (vocals, guitar) are backed by Betts, along with Tim Eyermann (clarinet), Alan Sherwin (soprano sax), Dave Kane (piano), Ralph Gordon (cello) & Rico Petrucelli (electric bass).
Janice Harrington — Yesterday Day Tomorrow – A Tribute to Dinah Washington — 
Notes: Recorded on July 9, 1988 at Alantis Studio, Stockholm, Sweden with bassist Betts and drummer Jimmy Cobb – released in Germany in 2009. Album includes “Olé” – a recording dedicated posthumously to Keter Betts.
Louis Bellson – with Hank Jones, Keter Betts, Don Menza, Buddy Defranco & Conte Condoli — Jazz Giants — 1990.
Notes: Recorded April 30, 1989 at the 1989 International Jazz Festival, Berne, Switzerland – includes the Keter Betts composition “Head Start.”
Pete Minger Quartet — Minger Painting — 1991
Notes: Recorded at Fort Lauderdale’s In-Roads Recording with support from Betts along with Bobby Durham (drums) and Dolph Castellano (piano).
Sue Matthews — Love Dances — 1991
Notes: Album arranged by vocalist Matthews, along with bassist Betts and pianist, Stefan Scaggiari. Streaming audio link to the opening track, “Love Dance.”
Buddy DeFranco Quartet — Chip Off the Old Bop — 1992
Notes: Clarinetist DeFranco is joined by Betts along with Jimmy Cobb (drums), Larry Novak (piano), and Joe Cohn (guitar). Album released and marketed only in Europe.
Chuck Brown & Eva Cassidy — The Other Side — 1992
The Junior Mance Trio — Blue Mance — 1994
Notes: Recorded by Rudy Van Gelder at Van Gelder Studios in Englewood Cliffs, NJ on May 18, 1994 – with Jackie Williams on drums. “Headstart” composed by Betts.
Ron Holloway — Slanted — 1994
Notes: Betts is one of four bassists backing Holloway.
The Louis Bellson Quintet — S*A*L*U*T*E — 1995
Notes: Recorded April, 1994 aboard the Sovereign of the Sea – with Bobby Shew (trumpet/flugelhorn), George Young (tenor sax), Willie Pickens (piano) & Betts.
Joey DeFrancesco — The Street of Dreams — 1995
The Floating Jazz Festival Trio – Junior Mance, Keter Betts & Jackie Williams + Special Guest Benny Golson — The Floating Jazz Festival Trio 1995 — 1996
The Floating Jazz Festival Trio – Junior Mance, Keter Betts & Jackie Williams with Joe Temperley — The Music of Duke Ellington — 1997
Notes: Recorded October 26-29, 1996 aboard the S/S Norway during the 1996 Floating Jazz Festival.
King/Bluiett Trio — Making’ Whoopee – Tribute to the Nat King Cole Trio — 1997
Notes: Hamiett Bluiett (baritone sax) backed by Betts and Ed Cherry & Rodney Jones (guitar) – includes “Route 66“
Chuck Brown and the Second Chapter Band — Timeless — 1998
Notes: Betts joins the Godfather of Go-Go on an album of standards, playing acoustic bass on eight recordings, including opening track “Nature Boy” (where Chuck invites Betts to solo at the 2:30 mark).
Keter Betts — Bass Buddies & Blues — 1999
Notes: Betts is accompanied by Dennis Mackrel (drums), Bill Charlap (piano), Steve Abshire (guitar), Jerry Weldon (tenor sax) & Pete Minger (trumpet) – recorded February 13, 1998 at Omega Recording Studios in Rockville, MD. Album includes “Joy’s Blues” & “Head Start.”
Red Holloway Quintet with Special Guest, O.C. Smith — Standing Room Only — 1999
Notes: Holloway enjoys backing from bassist Betts, along with Paul Humphrey (drums), Junior Mance (piano), and Phil Upchurch (guitar). Recorded live on the S/S Norway during the Floating Jazz Festival in late October, 1998.
Sunny Sumter — Sunny — 1999
Notes: Mastered live to two-track analog tape – no mixing board, filtering, compression, equalization, noise reduction, multitracking or overdubbing. Vocalist Sumter is backed by a rhythm section that includes Betts and Jimmy Cobb – recorded at Mapleshade Studios in November & December of 1998.
Harold Ashby with Keter Betts, Jimmy Cobb & John Hicks — Just For You — 1999
Notes: Recorded at Mapleshade Studios in Upper Marlboro, MD on December 29 & 30, 1998.
Monica Worth – with Larry Willis, Keter Betts, Jimmy Cobb & Rick Schmidt Strings — Never Let Me Go — 2000
Notes: Recorded April, 1997 at Mapleshade Studios.
Jay McShann Trio – with David “Fathead” Newman, Flip Phillips & Phil Woods — Hootie! — 2000
Notes: The Jay McShann Trio (with bassist Betts and drummer Jackie Williams) is joined by “Fathead” Newman and Flip Phillips (tenor sax) and Phil Woods (also sax) – recorded aboard the S/S Norway in the Caribbean Sea in late October, 1997. Album includes “Cruisin’ the Blues.”
Claude “Fiddler” Williams — Swingin’ the Blues — 2000
Notes: Recorded direct to 2-track analog tape on April 26-27, 1999 at NYC’s Nola Recording Studio, with Betts serving as the album’s director, as well as bassist. Album kicks off with “The Preacher.”
Keter Betts & Friends — Live at the East Coast Jazz Festival — 2000
Notes: Recorded live at the East Coast Jazz Festival, Rockville, MD in February 2000 with Dennis Mackrel (drums), Mike Jones (piano), Jerry Weldon (sax), Dave Steinmeyer (trombone) & Etta Jones (vocals on two numbers). Album includes “Pinky’s Waltz.”
Benjie Porecki — The Rest of My Life — 2001
Notes: Betts accompanies the keyboardist on five of the album’s tracks, including “Here’s to Life” for which Chuck Brown contributes vocals. Recorded at Rockville, MD’s Omega Recording Studios.
Keter Betts — Pinky’s Waltz – Keter Betts Live at Montpelier! — 2002
Notes: Betts recorded live at Montpelier Arts Center in Laurel, MD accompanied by Bill Charlap (piano) and Dennis Mackrel (drums).
Patti Wicks — Love Locked Out — 2003
Notes: Pianist/vocalist Wicks is accompanied by Betts and Joe LaBarbera on drums — audio link to the title track, “Love Locked Out.”
Bob Barnard & Jim Galloway — Wholly Cats — 2003
Notes: Barnard (cornet) and Galloway (soprano, alto & baritone sax) are joined by Betts (bass), Jackie Williams (drums), and Reg Schwager (guitar) in a live performance recorded at Toronto’s Montreal Bistro on September 27-28, 2002.
Maxine Sullivan, “Doc” Souchon, “Cliff” Jackson & Fat Cat — Manassas Jazz Festival — 2003
Notes: Betts backs Sullivan on “Surprise Party”; “If I Had a Ribbon Bow”; “I Thought About You”; “Loch Lomond” & “I’m Comin’ Virginia.”
Keter Betts — Bass, Buddies, Blues & Beauty Too — 2006
Notes: Album review by AllMusic‘s John Duffy – “Picking up where he left off with Bass, Buddies & Blues, Keter Betts offers his second solo date, Bass, Buddies, Blues & Beauty Too. The beauty in this case is Baltimore singer Ethel Ennis who joins the band on two numbers; a curiously arranged, but fun ‘Summertime’ and ‘He’s Funny That Way.’ There are only three band originals this time out (two by Betts and one from tenor sax man Jerry Weldon), the standards are quite refreshing. ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ sports an arrangement that is pure funk and Milt Jacobson’s uptown tune, ‘The Rev,’ is one of Betts’ most concise and snappy solo numbers yet. Fans familiar with Betts’ many recordings and concerts with Ella Fitzgerald will no doubt get a kick out of hearing him work with another singer again and the relaxed atmosphere of this disc is made all the more appealing by the leader’s inspired, lyrical playing.” Album includes “Squeeze Me” & “Alone Together.”
Fred Wesley & The Swing ‘n Jazz All-Stars — It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing — 2006
Notes: Recorded live at the studios at Linden Oaks in Rochester, NY on June 6 & 7, 2005, just two months prior to Betts’ passing. Album concludes with the Keter Betts composition, “Head Start.”
Keter Betts — Live Performance
- Ella Fitzgerald & The Tommy Flanagan Trio — “Them There Eyes” — 1965
- Ella Fitzgerald & The Tee Carson Trio — In Concert = Berlin, Germany — 1968
Keter Betts — Essential Reading
- “Byrd Lets Fly at Tour” — Down Beat — Aug. 3, 1961
Charlie Byrd, Ginny Byrd, Keter Betts, and Buddy Deppenschmidt debrief Down Beat fresh from their 12-week US Information Agency tour of South America that would sow the seeds for the following year’s world smash, Jazz Samba.
- “Keter Betts – Swinging Through Life and Nine” by Christopher Porter — JazzTimes — 2002 (updated Apr. 2019)
- “How a Famous Musician Learned a New Tune” by Edward Ordman — Christian Science Monitor — Feb. 12, 2003
- “The Gospel According to Betts Was All About Joy” by Richard Harrington — Washington Post — Aug. 9, 2005
- “Landmark Album Recorded in a D.C. Church, Turns 50” by Chris Richards — Washington Post — Apr. 19, 2012
- “Blame It on ‘Jazz Samba’: Bossa Nova Craze Started in DC” by Matt Schudel — Washington Post — May 26, 2014
Did You Know?
- Keter Betts was part of the lineup for the fourth annual jazz festival at (former DC prison) Lorton Reformatory, as reported in the September 3, 1959 edition of Down Beat. The event, which also included Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, Ed Thigpen, Herb Ellis, Lou Levy, Wilfred Middlebrooks, Gus Johnson, Stuff Smith, Charlie Byrd, and Eddie Phyfe, was hosted by WMAL jazz disc jockey, Felix Grant (radio pioneer who “played a pivotal role in promoting Brazilian and Jamaican culture in the United States by introducing bossa nova and reggae music to American audiences”).
- Keter Betts was also part of an all-star lineup of DC talent who performed in support of Richard Harrington‘s twenty years service on the music beat for the Washington Post, as reported by Dave Nuttycombe in Washington City Paper‘s February 25, 2000 edition. Also appearing with Betts on the stage of Alexandria’s Birchmere at this benefit event were Ron Holloway, the original Rosslyn Mountain Boys, Mike Auldridge, John Jennings, Chuck Brown, the Billy Hancock Orchestra, Eddie & Earl Jones, Catfish Hodge, and the Orioles.
Washington Post — August 15, 2005
Letters to the Editor: “Lives Touched By the Bassman“
I appreciated Richard Harrington’s Aug. 9 Style tribute, which rightly observed that the late Keter Betts “elevated everyone fortunate enough to be around him.”
I was one of those fortunate enough to have had Mr. Betts touch my life. He warmly embraced me as an artist, although I was not of his stature, and was generous enough to play with me. He added me to his list of friends, and I shared his knowledge, his warmth and his kindness.
Mr. Betts not only made music in the most memorable way, he made life better for everyone with whom he came in contact. I am grateful for people such as Keter Betts who bring such personal beauty into the world.
When my husband and I decided to get married more than 26 years ago, I said we could not set the date until Keter Betts was available. My husband-to-be naturally wanted to know who Keter Betts was and why his schedule was so important to us. I promised him that Mr. Betts was a great jazz bass player and that our wedding celebration would be a night filled with the sounds of world-class jazz.
Starting at age 8, with the help of my older brothers, I had been sneaking into D.C. jazz bars to hear Mr. Betts play when he was in town and not playing with Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson or Stan Getz. From that time on, I wanted Mr. Betts to play at my wedding, and my dream came true. Our wedding reception featured some of the District’s finest local musicians, led by Mr. Betts.
Three years ago I called into WPFW during an interview with Mr. Betts and asked if he would compose a theme song for Washington. He remembered my wedding. Then he let out his booming laugh and said that the District was too political — that political players never agree on anything, so they wouldn’t agree on a city song either.
The District truly will miss this jazz giant.
Keter Betts in the Congressional Record
Congressional Record — Extensions of Remarks
KETER BETTS IS SEVENTY-FIVE
Hon. John Conyers, Jr. of Michigan
In the House of Representatives
Thursday, July 17, 2003
Mr. CONYERS: . Mr. Speaker, hard work, persistence, and passion are all trademarks of a great musician. Noted as one of the most accomplished bassists of our time, Keter Betts stands among the rare musicians who exude a very special aura. A native of Port Chester, New York, Betts possessed the drive and passion for music at an early age. Betts credits a local parade event as a major spark in his love for jazz music. After that event, Keter was certain that the drum would be his lifelong musical companion. Although Keter worked hard and mastered drumming, after a while, Betts grew tired of carrying his drums up many flights of stairs and found that the bass would serve as a more comparable instrument. He did not know that this decision would many years later bring him to the forefront of jazz music.
Keter Betts established himself in jazz music as an exemplar of excellence in musicianship. His extraordinary career spanning six decades, numerous recordings, and musical genius all stand as a monument to his contribution to jazz. Mr. Betts’ professional career began in Washington, DC, working with New York native and tenor saxophonist Carmen Leggio. Just fresh out of high school, Keter played his first gig with Leggio at the age of 19. This thirteen week gig in the heart of Washington, DC would set the stage for Betts to travel the world impressing listeners and musical scholars alike with his command of the acoustic bass.
Keter has performed with Jazz icons including Duke Ellington, Dinah Washington, Earl Bostic, Woody Herman, Cannonball Adderley, Charlie Byrd, and an impressive twenty-four year career with the legendary Ella Fitzgerald. Keter’s melodic thumping bass lines can be heard on many of her recordings. In addition, Mr. Betts has time and time again enhanced the musical recordings of numerous Jazz artists and has been a performer on over one hundred recordings, including those of Count Basie, Tommy Flanagan, Sam Jones, and Kenny Burrell, among several others. Moreover, Mr. Betts also recorded a solo CD on his own label entitled Bass Buddies & Blues (1998).
He and his wife Mildred made Washington, DC their home as newlyweds in 1953. Here they raised a family of five children. Throughout the years, Keter has committed himself to contributing to the greater Washington, DC metropolitan area. Within the academic community, Keter has worked with the Washington Performing Arts Society’s Concerts in Schools Program, the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts and the Head Start program. In addition, Keter spends time imparting to future Jazz legends by serving as a music lecturer at Howard University.
Keter Betts’ numerous commendations for his excellence in jazz further demonstrate his positive relationship with the Washington, DC community. Keter has been inducted into the Washington Area Music Association Hall of Fame. Mr. Betts has also been honored with the Linowes Leadership Award from the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, and most recently he was selected to receive the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation’s 2003 Living Legacy Jazz Award.
Keter has shared his musical gift with international audiences and has performed on stages in South America, Europe, the Middle East, and numerous stages across the United States. Through his musical genius, has and continues to continues to captivate, motivate, and inspire current and future generations. We are glad that his family and friends are sharing this special day with him, and we pause to remember his loving wife who passed away in 2000. On this day of celebration, we commemorate the contributions of Keter Betts and wish him all the best on his 75th birthday.
William Thomas “Keter” Betts — who left us August 6, 2005 — was also honored by United States congressional representative, Barbara Lee of California, in the September 7, 2005 edition of the Congressional Record.