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I'll Be Seeing You: A Tribute to Carmen McRae

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Album Review

This two-CD set mostly brings back material from singer Carmen McRae's Decca years that had been bypassed by other reissues. The oversized box, after a memorable version of "Something to Live For" (in which McRae is accompanied by the song's composer Billy Strayhorn), has many orchestra tracks that are weighed down by middle-of-the-road arrangements more suitable to Doris Day than to McRae; only "Whatever Lola Wants" is memorable among the routine ballads of 1955-56. However, things start improving with "Skyliner" and a March 1957 set with just a rhythm section is quite enjoyable; McRae herself contributes some effective piano on swinging renditions of "Perdido" and "Exactly like You." The majority of the later selections use orchestras but the charts are more jazz-oriented and McRae (who was in her mid-to-late 30s during the period) had clearly grown as a singer; tenor-saxophonist Ben Webster helps out on "Bye Bye Blackbird" and "Flamingo." Overall this set is worth picking up for fans of Carmen McRae's early years, giving one a fine overview of her talents in the 1950s.


Born: April 08, 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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