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 Fuller Up The Dead Musician Directory  
Betty Roche
Betty Roche
 
Feb. 15, 1999
Age 81
if anyone can link me to a photo of Betty please email
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 NY TIMES
    
    Betty Roche, Singer of Blues and Be-Bop, Dead at 81
 

          By BEN RATLIFF 

               Betty Roche, a singer who performed with Duke Ellington in the 1940s and '50s and was noted 
               for her strong, dramatic delivery of blues material, died on Feb. 16 at the Mainland Manor 
          Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Pleasantville, N.J. She was 81.  

          "She had a soul inflection in a bop state of intrigue," Ellington wrote about Ms. Roche in his oblique 
          style of praise, "and every word was understandable despite the sophisticated hip and jive 
          connotations."  

          Born Mary Elizabeth Roche (pronounced ro-SHAY) in Wilmington, Del., she began her career by 
          winning an amateur contest at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. In 1941 she sang with the Savoy 
          Sultans.  

          Ms. Roche joined Ellington in 1943, replacing Ivie Anderson just before Ellington's first Carnegie 
          Hall concert and scored highly with the critics and audience in her section of the Ellington suite 
          "Black, Brown and Beige."  

          Her feature within the suite was the "Blues" sequence, meant to express the feelings of blacks who 
          settled into urban life at the start of the 20th century. With its famous pyramidal lyric scheme -- it 
          begins, "The blues/the blues ain't/the blues ain't nothing/the blues ain't nothing but a cold gray day" -- 
          it became one of Ellington's greatest pieces for a singer.  

          But Ms. Roche's rendition, in a concert recording, was not released until the 1970s because when 
          Ellington made a studio recording of the suite in 1944, Ms. Roche already had been replaced by 
          Joya Sherrill. In a similar bit of unfortunate luck, Ms. Roche sang "Take the A Train" with Ellington in 
          the 1943 film "Reveille With Beverly" but wasn't recorded singing Ellington's signature tune until nine 
          years later, in a be-bop style, on the album "Ellington Uptown."  

          Ms. Roche also performed and recorded with the pianist Earl Hines, the trumpeter Clark Terry and 
          the singer and pianist Charles Brown. She made three recordings under her name for the Bethlehem 
          and Prestige labels in the late 1950s and early 60s.  

          She is survived by three grandchildren.

 
 
 
 
       
 

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Jan.  9,1918 - Feb. 15, 1999

Betty Roche had an oddly episodic career with its highpoints being two separate moments with Duke Ellington's Orchestra. She sang and recorded with the Savoy Sultans (1941-42) and had short stints with Hot Lips Page and Lester Young.   Roche had the misfortune of being with Duke Ellington in 1943, a year when the recording strike kept all bands off records. However at Duke's premiere Carnegie Hall concert she sang the celebrated "Blues" section of his "Black, Brown & Beige Suite"; four decades later this was finally released by Prestige. After a period with Earl Hines,  Roche spent time outside of music but she rejoined Ellington in 1952 and recorded a classic version of "Take the 'A' Train" that was later adopted by Ray Nance. She recorded three solo albums during 1956-61 but then went back into obscurity, having made her brief mark on jazz history. ~ Scott Yanow 
---Scott Yanow, All-Music Guide 

 
 
 
  
 
 

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Betty Roche's Lightly and Politely

AMG   It is ironic that what is arguably singer Betty Roche's finest all-around recording was
 also her last. For this session, which has been reissued in the OJC series on CD, Roche (backed
 by pianist Jimmy Neeley, guitarist Wally Richardson, bassist Michel Mulia and drummer
 Rudy Lawless) improvises constantly and uplifts a variety of superior standards including
 Someone to Watch over Me, Polka Dots and Moonbeams, I Had the Craziest Dream and three
 songs by her former boss Duke Ellington. It's recommended, particularly to jazz fans not aware
 of Betty Roche's musical talents. ~ Scott Yanow, All-Music Guide
 



Betty Roche's Singin' & Swingin'

AMG     Betty Roche should have been much more famous. She had two barely documented
 periods with Duke Ellington's orchestra and recorded three excellent albums as a leader from
 1956-61 (all of which are available on CD), but then faded away into complete obscurity. This
 reissue (which is mistakenly given the incorrect date of Jan. 24, 1961, which was actually
 Roche's following release) matches the singer with tenor saxophonist Jimmy Forrest, organist
 Jack McDuff (near the beginning of his career), guitarist Bill Jennings, bassist Wendell
 Marshall and drummer Roy Haynes. Roche performs nine famous standards, coming up with
 fresh variations in her phrasing to such numbers as Come Rain or Come Shine, When I Fall in
 Love, Blue Moon and Billie's Bounce. Recommended, as are all of the other recordings in her
 slim discography. ~ Scott Yanow, All-Music Guide

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