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Book of Ballads

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Album Review

The Book of Ballads in question is the Great American Songbook, and Carmen McRae breathes new life into some of its most dog-eared pages on this wonderful session that heralded the close of her Kapp Records tenure. McRae tackles material like "When I Fall in Love," "Isn't It Romantic?" and "How Long Has This Been Going On?" with uncommon care and intelligence, summoning rich new meaning from the familiar lyrics. In her hands, the songs pulse with energy and life. Arranger Frank Hunter and a supporting trio led by pianist Don Abney also merit commendation for nuanced, evocative backings that afford McRae the necessary space to do her thing.

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...
Full bio

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