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Birds of a Feather

Carmen McRae

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Album Review

Yes, there's a concept on the loose here — all the songs are about birds. Fortunately, there are plenty of good songs on the subject, and it's not so narrow that all the focus hinges on birds themselves. Carmen McRae is supported by a good small group, directed and arranged by Ralph Burns, featuring guitarist Mundell Lowe and many solos for an uncredited "tenorman" (i.e., Ben Webster). Both McRae and Webster do their best on the driving, horn-heavy score for "Bob White (Whatcha Gonna Swing Tonight)." First, Webster follows closely along with trumpeter Irwin "Marky" Markowitz while McRae vocalizes clearly and with some swing, then launches a beautiful solo before McRae returns for the closer. Other highlights include the touching "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" and a relaxed, pastoral "When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano."

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