A Musical Celebration of the Life of Betty Baxter


The Jazz Alliance of Mid-Michigan will pay tribute to the late jazz vocalist Betty Baxter with a concert 1:30 p.m. Sunday (May 26) at the MSU Community Music School.

Baxter, a founding member of JAMM, died in December at age 91 after fighting off several health problems. She was a staple of the mid-Michigan jazz scene for decades after moving to the area in 1977 to work for the Michigan Senate, performing regularly at local jazz festivals and Jazz Tuesdays at Moriarty’s Pub.

“She always lit up the room with her voice and presence,” drummer and Jazz Tuesdays organizer Jeff Shoup told City Pulse in December. “Over the years, she was featured many times. She attended almost every week until the travel got to be too difficult for her.”

She also performed at dozens of Lansing-area venues with pianist-bassist Fred Mitchell and late pianist Sandy Izenson under the name Satin Sounds.

In an obituary for Baxter, Lawrence Cosentino, City Pulse’s senior staff writer, described the songstress as having “a winning, lowkey presence and an encyclopedic knowledge of the Great American Songbook.” He noted she loved to “breathe new life into long-forgotten songs,” such as “I Keep Goin’ Back to Joe’s,” an obscure torch song first recorded by Nat King Cole in 1963.

Baxter was honored with a lifetime award from JAMM in 2016. Ever humble, when she was told of the award, she expressed concern that no one would attend the tribute concert. Instead, a “stellar” array of local jazz musicians showed up to perform for three hours, according to Cosentino.

Many of Baxter’s former musical associates and friends will do the same at Sunday’s concert, including Wendy Decker, Mike Eyia, Doug Fitch, Ed Fedewa, Jon Gewirtz, Jeff Kressler, Arlene McDaniel, Ron Newman and Sunny Wilkinson. Admission to the concert is free, but registration is required at jazzjamm.org.


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