Keter Betts 

--Beloved veteran bassist

by Steve Monroe
Copyright © 2006 Steve Monroe

An outpouring of affection and warmth from more than 1,000 family members, friends, jazz lovers, arts patrons and others provided a fitting homegoing service for Keter Betts, bass man extraordinaire, Monday, August 15, 2005 at Metropolitan United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C.

Betts, 77, the longtime rhythm section anchor for Dinah Washington and Ella Fitzgerald, and performer on more than 200 recordings, passed away at his home in Silver Spring, Md., on August 6, 2005.

Born William Thomas Betts in Port Chester, N.Y., July 22, 1928, is survived by his children William Jr., Derek, Jonathan and twin daughters Jacquelyn and Jennifer. His wife Mildred died in 2000. He is also survived by dear friend Roscoe Dellums, who along with jazz pianists Dr. Billy Taylor and Barry Harris, delivered remembrances of Betts as a kind-hearted, humorous human being and ultimate professional. Ethel Ennis, Tommy Cecil, James King, Steve Novosel, Michael Bowie and Freddie Cole were among the musicians who performed during the service.

Many speakers noted Betts’ lifelong dedication to educating youth about the arts and music and to helping musicians of any age with his expertise. Betts picked up the drums first as a child, and then switched to the bass, when, as he said, the drums proved too cumbersome to move back and forth from his home for gigs. A fan of Duke Ellington bassist Jimmy Blanton, Betts became a part of the New York City jazz scene in the late 1940s and began traveling extensively – eventually around the world – as a much in demand bassist. He played in D.C. clubs in the early 1950s and decided to make the area his home.

Betts was an important mainstay for vocalist Ronnie Wells’ production of the Fish Middleton Jazz Society’s East Coast Jazz Festival in Rockville, performing there every year since the first festival began in 1992. Betts was also a force in getting the Silver Spring Jazz Festival off the ground in 2004 and had been expected to perform there again in 2005; he died one month prior to the event.

Besides gaining fame for playing with Dinah and Ella, Betts was also one of the key purveyors of the bossa nova craze that swept the music world in the 1960’s and lasts as a significant genre of the music. Betts played with Washington’s legendary guitarist Charlie Byrd and saxophonist Stan Getz on the Jazz Samba album that helped popularize Latin jazz. Betts also played with Cannonball Adderley, Oscar Peterson, Woody Herman, Clifford Brown and many other jazz luminaries.

Steve Monroe
Steve Monroe, a Jazz Journalist Association member, is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. He can be reached at

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Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Saxophonist Jordon Dixon grew up in a very musical family. He started his musical path at the age of 12. By the age of 15 he was sitting in at Local bars and clubs, while continuously honing his raw talent. In the summer of 2002 at the age of 19, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps as a Marine Musician. After 11 years of honorable service to the nation, he moved to the Washington D.C. area to play and study music with some of the best musicians and instructors on the planet, and here is where he currently resides. Jordon Dixon has played with some of the finest musicians in the world, but continues to stay hungry, humble and disciplined in his musical quest.

As a member of “The Few, The Proud, The Marines,” Jordan Dixon of the University of the District of Columbia Jazz Ensemble has already made waves. With his debut CD “A Conversation among Friends,” the tenor saxophonist has served notice he is a musician and composer deserving wider recognition. Allyn Johnson, director of jazz studies at the University of the District of Columbia, is the pianist on the CD along with bandmates Steve Novosel, bass, Nasar Abadey, drums, and J.S. Williams, trumpet. Highlights include Dixon’s bold, raw, bluesy tenor sax riffs on tunes like “Wayward Warrior,” an intriguing lilting jam spurred by Johnson’s rippling runs and Abadey’s splashing drum work. “Hospital Honors” rips and roars with Dixon’s spearing sax lines, and “What You’ve Done for Me (A Ballad for Mr. Gulley)” is in the best of the sax man’s ballad tradition. ​ Steve Monroe of ​Link: 40

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Last Updated: May 7, 2017

Steve Monroe | 5/20/2015

The DC Jazz Festival looks even more diverse this year, with hip-hop, soul and pop influences certain to attract millennials as well as the middle-aged, seniors and the casual music fan tourists by the busload – and all that would be great for Willard Jenkins, who was named earlier this year as the artistic director for the June 10-16 festival.

On this year’s diverse lineup, with artists like Common being presented as well as traditionalists like The Cookers, Jenkins said, “As far as our incorporating other forms in our festival lineup, I liken that to different related branches of the same tree. Jazz is not one style or approach to playing; I’ve always viewed jazz as an aesthetic umbrella, under which are a number of different styles or ways of expressing jazz. So I think it’s natural to try and present a diverse event like DCJF, particularly when you’re trying to attract such a diverse populace as we enjoy here in the DMV.”

A presenter of jazz festivals elsewhere, a jazz journalist and radio programmer with WPFW-FM (89.3) here in D.C., and someone who has been familiar with jazz artists far and wide for decades, Jenkins has been there and done that, but admits that his role with DCJF pushes the envelope.

“The biggest difference … is the DCJF has a wider scope … DCJF has evolved into a real Big Tent kind of event, literally encompassing all four quadrants of the city (NE, NW, SE, SW) with our partner venues,” says Jenkins. “This is truly a city jazz festival … whereas other festivals representative of their locale are city festivals, they mostly present in a designated venue or corner of their city.”

All over the city, from The Hamilton Live downtown to the Kennedy Center, the Atlas, Anacostia Arts Center and many other venues, as of early June, music fans can enjoy artists including The Bad Plus Joshua Redman, Snarky Puppy, The Cookers, Common, Esperanza Spalding, Jack DeJohnette with Ravi Coltrane, John Scofield, Paquito D’Rivera, Sharon Clark, Marshall Keys, Thundercat, Warren Wolf and many more. DCJF events actually begin with a June 5 preview event at Westminster Church with drummer Lennie Robinson and Friends and the Jazz ‘n’ Families Fun Days events June 6-7 with music, talks, displays and more at the Phillips Collection (see for complete information).

Jenkins, originally from Cleveland, has experience as an artistic director for festivals in Ohio and New York City. Said DCJF Executive Director Sunny Sumter of Jenkins: “Willard has a proven track record of delivering innovative and visionary jazz programming. He is recognized internationally as a brilliant champion of jazz, and we are confident that his in-depth understanding of jazz both here in our region, nationally and abroad, will take the DC Jazz Festival to new heights.”

For this year’s DC Jazz Festival, the 11th one, one venue brought back due to popular acclaim is the Capital Riverfront at Yards Park in Southeast. 

“From an artistic perspective,” Jenkins said, “and in terms of introducing a new, outdoor venue to the festival, last year on the Capital Riverfront (Yards Park) was a major undertaking and an unqualified success.” 

Jenkins, an educator on jazz at seminars, forums and other special events, is also the co-author of the Randy Weston autobiography “African Rhythms” and was named a 2013 Jazz Hero by the Jazz Journalists Association. 

“The most interesting thing about my work,” he said, “relates to what I continually refer to about this festival – DCJF has a lot of moving parts. Working with, coordinating, and maintaining strong collegial relationships with those partner venues and artists in this community, all the while striving to bring exceptional visiting artists into our community to perform during the festival are endlessly refreshing aspects of this work.”Type your paragraph here.