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Friday, May 12, 2023

Harold Betters At The Encore



Harold Betters
At The Encore
Artist: Dick Davis
Photo: John Whited
Gateway Recordings GLP 7001

Trombone - Harold Betters
Piano - John Hughes
Drums - Joe Ashliman
Bass - Al O'Brien

From the back cover: This album inaugurates Gateway's entrance into the jazz field. It is my belief that there are many unknown artist of high caliber in the country, and I can not think of a better musical to begin our jazz series with than Harold Betters.

Hat Hentoff states in his book, The Jazz Life, that "When you walk into a jazz club, you never know what the combination of emotions, some perhaps long dormant, will be reawakened and reset before the night is out." This is certainly the when entering the Encore while Harold Betters is on the bandstand. The room becomes alive with sounds that may reach the most introverted listeners. There is an added impact when viewing this small but vibrant jazz trombonist, for it seems as though his instrument is only an extension of himself – a tool which enables only an extension of himself – a tool which enables him to pour out emotion and capture his audience.

Harold Betters was born on March 21, 1928, in the small community of Connellsville, Pennsylvania. He is from a family of seven, "each musical in their own individual capacity," as Harold expresses it. Upon graduating from high school he attended Ithaca Collage for two years studying music education. Before joining the service to play in the Army band at Camp Edwards, Massachusetts, Harold studied at the Conservatory of Music in Brooklyn, New York for a year.

Harold Betters, or as hie is sometimes called, "Mr. Trombone," returned to New York where he gained valuable experience in his chosen field working with many new York jazz groups. In 1953 he was married to a Boston girl, Marjorie, and returned to his home town of Connellsville only to leave for a road engagement with Ray Charles. Harold is a family man with tree children.

Pittsburg started to recognize Harold Betters as an important jazz talent during his appearance at the Pitt Pott, a small club near the University of Pittsburgh. It was not long before he had played every jazz club in the City, the latest being the Pink Cloud and, of course, the Encore.

When planning the production of this album I asked Harold to jot down his feelings toward jazz. One the top  of the notes he prepared, the following sentence appeared: "My feelings concerning jazz are very simple." This is, however, an underestimation, for Harold Betters has a deep and profound attitude toward his music, one that is not simple but as complicated as the individual. The following is the text of Harold's notes.

"I think along the lines of the old-school musicians. I think in any composition you play you should try to be part of it. But that I mean you should try to express yourself emotionally according to what you feel from the song. For example, if you are playing a ballad, it's supposed to create sadness, loneliness or love, and i should be played with that feeling in mind. Its beauty should be respected by staying close to the melody and concentrating on sounds and tone. The intricacies of jazz anyone's technique should be used on the faster and lighter numbers. Improvisation should be restrained to such likelier tunes.

"As far as way-out or modern jazz is concerned, I think it is false to reach for a new sound just for the sake of something new. The musicians emotions and character are what is important beside the ability to handle his instrument."

At the risk of being trite, I will say that music is a very personal thing, and I will not presume to make a judgment of this album. However, I will say that this is my kind of jazz, a jazz that is creative and yet can be understood and enjoyed by everyone. – Robert W. Schachner - Gateway Recordings, Inc. - October 22, 1962

Blowin' Your Horn
One Mint Julep
Stella By Starlight
Hold It
Stand By Me
Ebb Tide

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