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  • Jonathan Widran

BETTY BRYANT, Lotta Livin'

In August 2021, the late great Tony Bennett performed his final shows with Lady Gaga at Radio City Music Hall to celebrate his 95th birthday. After listening to the vigorous, still swingin’ like there’s no tomorrow 94-year-old jazz dynamo Betty Bryant on her aptly titled new album Lotta Livin’, there’s no doubt she’ll be breezing way past that mark and not catch her breath till maybe 100.


Produced by veteran her saxophonist and collaborator of 30 years Robert Kyle, the nine track collection finds the woman Kyle memorialized in song as the “Cool Misass B” working her soulful vocal magic and spirited, improvisational piano energy on a dynamically arranged set of familiar standards (a finger snappin’ good “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” a sensual Brazilian breeze through “The Very Thought of You”) and colorful originals that sassily tell a lover to “Put a Lid On It,” weave a mischievous tale about the naughty things “Katydid” and, perhaps most deliriously, relating her love of “Chicken Wings” on a talk-sing tune duet with Kyle’s down home, perky harmonica.


If Betty ever decides to stop singing – let’s pray not – she can always populate a whole album with instrumental piano only romps like “Blues To Get Started.” Among all the other gems, she and Kyle’s slow simmering, solo-filled jam through “Stormy Monday” is the ultimate showstopper. So when she wraps with another standard, a sly reminder that she’s still got “A Lot of Livin’ To Do,” she’s winking at us, enticing us to follow along as she manifests just what that means as the years go by.  

 

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