BETTY SMITH

Exotica • United Kingdom
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British tenor saxophonist & singer. Born 6 July 1929; died 21 January 2011

Betty Smith, once billed as ‘the girl with sax appeal’, was always willing to come out front and play

The presence of female instrumentalists in jazz ensembles is no longer a matter for comment, but half a century ago it was far less usual. This made the achievements of the tenor-saxophonist Betty Smith, who has died aged 81, all the more remarkable. Where the occasional female trumpeter or saxophonist might be spotted playing section parts in a big band, Smith was always a soloist, ready and willing to come out front. During the 1950s she shone, playing Dixieland with the Freddy Randall band. Then, with the Best of British Jazz all-star mainstream outfit, she carved out a vital role for herself as both instrumentalist and vocalist. She later fronted her own bands, touring widely until she was incapacitated by illness.

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Songs Traditionally Sung in North CarolinaSongs Traditionally Sung in North Carolina
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BETTY SMITH Discography

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BETTY SMITH My Foolish Heart album cover 3.00 | 1 ratings
My Foolish Heart
Exotica 1959

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BETTY SMITH Reviews

BETTY SMITH My Foolish Heart

Album · 1959 · Exotica
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js
I was looking through some of the more remote parts of my record collection and came across this odd retro album cover and realized I had no idea what this record sounded like, much less how I had acquired it. Doing some quick research on the internet I noticed this album selling for fairly high, as well as moderately low prices sometimes, and yet I could not find a review for it.

Betty Smith was a tenor saxophonist who came up through Britain’s big band circuit in the 1950s. Over the years she became quite an entertainer, often fronting large ensembles by mixing her saxophone solos with jazzy vocals and even raunchy humor. She became known as the girl with “sax appeal”. Her soulful sound on the tenor has been compared to Bud Freeman and Eddie Miller and no matter what style of music she is playing, her roots in swing always come through.

Although Betty came up through the swing band tradition, during the latter part of her career she often paid the bills with instrumental pop recordings. “My Foolish Heart” is one of those classic late 50s/early 60s tenor sax instrumental pop/rock-n-roll ballad records, the kind of music that used to play when radio stations would sign off, or that was used to introduce and close the late night movie on TV. The arrangements on here are spiced up with backing wordless vocals, swanky instrumentation and enough tasteful kitsch to make it appealing to the exotica collector. Like most pop music from this era, there is a doo-wop influence which shows in some of the backing vocals as well as the subtle repeating triplets on the piano. The recording quality and production on “My Foolish Heart” is excellent, if you like this sort of retro instrumental album, go for it.

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