Betty Baxter: Smooth Jazz and Even Smoother Vocals


Betty Baxter — local vocalist and pianist known as Satin Sounds — has always been drawn to music, especially singing. “When I was little, I would stand on my dining room table and sing for pennies and nickels,” said Baxter. It was then when she discovered her passion for performing and engaging an audience through song. Another early influence of her’s that made her want to perform was Shirley Temple. Baxter said, “My mother would take me to see her movies and she sang and tap-danced so wonderfully; I wanted to be like her, so I decided to enroll in tap school.” Although growing up, Baxter would dance, sing and act, it was never much of an active pursuit. It wasn’t until the early 1980s when she met Fred Mitchell — a talented pianist and bassist — that she was finally introduced to the world of smooth jazz. Mitchell and Baxter partnered with a local pianist she already had a history of performing with named Sandy Izenson. The trio began playing shows at local country clubs, music lounges and other venues throughout the Lansing area. In 1988 she adopted the name, “Satin Sounds” and became a highly touted vocalist in mid-Michigan. Baxter attributes much of her success to being able to find her own voice. “I have always tried to be myself. I’ve never had any desire to sound like anyone else,” explained Baxter. “I have my own sound and that is what makes me unique.” Baxter’s passion is to perform live, but she has released a CD as well. It is entitled, “Love Remembers” and it is dedicated to her daughter who passed away a few weeks before recording. The CD features a quartet of mid-Michigan heavyweights — Jeff Kressler, piano; Ed Fedewa, bass; Fred Knapp, drums; and Jeff Hall, Saxophone. “The album was created in a day — live and full of palpable raw emotion,” said Baxter. “After the death of my daughter, I assembled a cast of trusted musicians and went into the studio on what would have been her birthday and sang my heart out.” Baxter is in the process of recording another CD and hopes to have it released sometime this month. It will consist of “easy-listening, mellow jazz,” said Baxter. Her ambitions don’t stop there, though. She still has many plans ahead of her. “I want to create a holiday CD, a children’s CD and one that involves instrumental improvisation. There is still so much I wish to do.” To book Baxter for an event, see where she is performing or purchase her CD, visit: Andrew Rickerman is a senior at Michigan State University studying advertising and public relations. He enjoys writing, exploring Lansing and eating burritos.

Tags: Betty Baxter, jazz, music, Satin Sounds

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