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Album Review

It would be hard to cage the Best of Carmen McRae in pure ballad form, as if she were a secondary performer to Sarah Vaughan on that level. For this compilation from the Blue Note label family of recordings, that is what their producer has done — put her in a sweet but sleepy box. Of course she's a great interpreter of sad and bluesy songs, but one yearns for her to bust out of that rut on this CD and dish up a bit of precious energy that sets her apart from Vaughan. It happens only twice, as she steps up the tempo a bit on "Too Close for Comfort," while dipping into black bottom blues during "'Tain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do." The rest of the tracks are well known torch songs, done quite well, especially the languid "A Child Is Born" and "Star Eyes," as one should expect. But, where's the beef? As much as this set will appeal to some of her fans, most will feel they've been short-changed. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi


Born: 08 April 1920 in New York, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Carmen McRae always had a nice voice (if not on the impossible level of an Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughan) but it was her behind-the-beat phrasing and ironic interpretations of lyrics that made her most memorable. She studied piano early on and had her first important job singing with Benny Carter's big band (1944), but it would be another decade before her career had really gained much momentum. McRae married and divorced Kenny Clarke in the '40s, worked with Count Basie (briefly) and Mercer Ellington...
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