Betty Blake (vcl), Marcus Belgrave (tp), Roland Alexander (ts), Mal Waldron (p), Teddy Charles (vib), Kenny Burrell (g), Addison Farmer (b), Charles Persip (d), John Plonsky (tp), Carl Janelli (bs), Dominic Cortese (acc), Chet Amsterdam (b)
Reference: FSRCD 821
Cincinnati-born singer Betty Ann Blake (April 9, 1937), began her career at 16 with local bands and then joined the Ernie Rudy (1954-1956) and Buddy Morrow (1956-1958) orchestras.
As Morrows featured vocalist she attracted the attention of Golden Crest Records. Offered work as guest singer on two songs on an album by trumpeter John Plonskys modern jazz quintet, this in turn led to the recording of a single accompanied by Jack Zimmermans orchestra.
Her band experience took her to clubs around the country, and after four years she returned to Cincinnati to join a vocal group for a time. When in 1961 vibes player and producer Teddy Charles approached her to do an album for Bethlehem Records featuring five Alec Wilder ballads, she decided to drop the Ann from her name.
For this release, Betty Blake Sings in a Tender Mood, top flight jazzmen like Mal Waldron, Zoot Sims, Kenny Burrell, Roland Alexander and Charles furnished her with an ideal background. She had a touching ballad style, and swung well on medium and uptempo tunes, always approaching her material in a direct, ungimmicky fashion and faithfully serving the sense of the lyric. Unfortunately she disappeared from the scene and nothing was heard of her until her untimely death, of cancer, at age 63, on September 19, 2001.
"It is remarkable how many very good female jazz singers made one or two LPs in the late 50s to early 60s and then disappeared. Maybe there wasnt enough work to go round. Betty Ann Blake worked with Buddy Morrows band in 1956 and recorded two tracks with trumpeter John Plonskys combo at that time. Vibes man Teddy Charles set up a record date for her with Bethlehem in 1961 and that disc, with the title of this CD, makes up most of the material on offer here. This session was the Betty Blake debut and swansong in one.
Blake swings easily on these tracks, receiving sympathetic support from Charles on vibes, Belgraves trumpet and the rhythm sections. Her voice is both intimate and warm and she handles a lyric as though she means every word. Dont Say Love Has Ended is particularly good. Betty pours heart, soul and voice into a sad song and there are some tasty arabesques on tenor from Zoot Sims. Perhaps best of all is her uptempo assault on Out Of This World, where she picks the lyric up by the scruff of its neck and swings it hard, with Belgrave and Alexander blazing behind her.
Lady Sings and Jersey Boy come from a single made in 1957. I find it extremely sad that Betty Blake died of cancer in 2001 aged 63, long forgotten. Credit is due to Jordi Pujol of Fresh Sound for bringing her considerable talent back to our notice."
Derek Ansell -May, 2014
Notes on 'Sings in a Tender Mood':
"A great little vocal session on Bethlehem and maybe the only record we've ever seen from singer Betty Blake! Blake's a great vocalist right from the start one who balances swing and sophistication wonderfully amidst some very hip jazz backings from a combo that features Zoot Sims and Roland Alexander on tenor, Marcus Belgrave on trumpet, Teddy Charles on vibes, Kenny Burrell on guitar, and Mal Waldron on piano! The set's got a bit more punch than some other Bethlehem vocal dates, but it also has a nice sense of spontaneity too never over-arranged or too staid, in ways that really show off Blake's swinging side."
-Dusty Groove, Inc.
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