Taken from a live 1993 performance in London, Feed the Fire is an album filled with surprises. Betty Carter is known for her practice of featuring hot new up-and-coming musicians in her bands, but on this recording she is accompanied by established, world-class talent: Geri Allen, Dave Holland, and Jack DeJohnette. Dave Holland demonstrates why he is one of the greatest living bassists with his unerring sense of melody and pitch. Jack DeJohnette, an acknowledged master of the drums for 30 years, is nothing less than explosive, punctuating the solo statements of his bandmates with powerful flurries. Allen's touch is reminiscent of Keith Jarrett's at times, such as on her excellent solo on "Love Notes." Although Carter shares the spotlight unselfishly, her own contributions are clearly the focal point of Feed the Fire. On the fantastic title track, Allen sets up a percolating rhythmic figure, joined by Holland and DeJohnette. Then Carter enters, scatting her way through the changes, eschewing singing in the traditional sense. Her vocal improvisations are on par with any instrumentalists, a claim one cannot make about many singers. On ballads, such as the exquisite "Lover Man," Carter soars, caressing the melodies with a satin touch, dancing around the music with impeccable phrasing, dropping low into her register for punctuation. It is heady, hypnotizing stuff. Feed the Fire is an interesting album, with many wonderful moments, such as the unison ascending figures in "Sometimes I'm Happy" or the Carter/DeJohnette duet of "What Is This Tune?" However, it is not perfect, and tends to drag toward the end. Tracks go on for too long, and, as wonderful as Carter's singing is, and as compelling as it is to listen to the interaction of these four great musicians, the quality of the music itself tends to wander a bit. Nevertheless, it is a strong album, well worth searching out.
AllMusic Review by Daniel Gioffre