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Carmen McRae for Lovers

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Album Review

Romantic ballads were Carmen McRae's specialty, and her streetwise yet sophisticated phrasing carried just enough world-weariness to suggest that she actually understood what she was singing about (being in love or having been in love doesn't automatically mean you can convincingly sing about it — McRae could, though). This collection of mid- to late-'50s material for Decca Records doubles both as a collection of love songs and as a fine introduction to the singer in her early years — when she still had full control of her upper vocal register. With impeccable jazz backing, songs here like "When I Fall in Love," "If Love Is Good to Me," "My Funny Valentine," and "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye" are given beautiful and definitive readings by McRae. "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," from 1958's Birds of a Feather album, is a particular delight, thanks to a wonderful arrangement and the presence of horn men Irwin "Marky" Markowitz (trumpet), Tony Miranda (French horn), and Ben Webster, whose tenor saxophone lead line toward the end of the song literally becomes the voice of the nightingale. Sleek, moving, and sophisticated, Carmen McRae for Lovers is a concise introduction to a marvelous singer covering the kind of material that she did best.

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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Carmen McRae for Lovers, Carmen McRae
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