At a tribute on Friday to Keter Betts, Washington's late, great bass player, Crockett, a stranger to most in a room jam-packed with serious jazz fans, proved a deserving heir to Ella Fitzgerald, for whom Betts was the regular bass player -- not by channeling Ella's ghost, but by inviting the ancestress to guide her as Crockett brought a new sensibility to the straight-ahead form. It was a breathtaking tightrope act that Crockett performed before a not-so-young audience Friday night at Southwest D.C.'s Westminster Presbyterian Church, weaving together melodic scats with the sort of vocal technique that developed much later in such iconic but hard-to-define acts as Bobby McFerrin, Tuck and Patti, and Sweet Honey in the Rock. In a particularly daring feat, Crockett quoted (without parroting) a famous Fitzgerald scat, "How High the Moon," from a 1949 live recording from Carnegie Hall.
I had come to see Buck Hill, the legendary saxophonist, play with Keter's cats, who were joined by bassist James King. Watching Crockett, before my eyes, win the respect of such grand elders as Hill and drummer Harold Mann gave me hope that jazz just might survive, after all, as a living, breathing art form.
--Adele M. Stan