Betty Carter’s 25-minute extravaganza “Sounds” is possibly the jazz vocal apogee. Sarah Vaughan is more inventive and harmonically sophisticated, Ella is more agile, Billie Holiday is more soulful, but nobody is more adventurous or swinging than Betty Carter. The sustained energy of this piece is incredible. I don’t know how she manages not to keel over from exhaustion halfway through. This is what it means not to be wed to Irving Berlin songs.
And just for fun, at the very opposite end of the spectrum, Carter’s charming, Doris Day-esque duet with Ray Charles on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”: