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By Special Request

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Album Review

Other than a record for Bethlehem and a few scattered selections, this LP (most of which has been reissued on CD) has Carmen McRae's earliest recordings. Although her voice is higher than it would be and her style is not as recognizable, she was already a top-notch singer at this early stage. Some numbers have McRae joined by the Mat Matthews Quintet (featuring Matthews on accordion and the young Herbie Mann on flute), while others have her joined by pianist Dick Katz, guitarist Mundell Lowe, bassist Wendell Marshall, and her ex-husband Kenny Clarke on drums. McRae plays piano on "Suppertime," and Billy Strayhorn sits in on his own "Something to Live For." Among the other songs that McRae uplifts and swings are "Give Me the Simple Life," "Sometimes I'm Happy," "Yardbird Suite," and "This Will Make You Laugh."

Biography

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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