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Album Review

The Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band didn't record too often with vocalists, so this meeting with Carmen McRae had a lot of potential. McRae was likely seeing most of these songs for the first take at the recording sessions, since almost all are originals written by the bandmembers. She's game and does her best, but several tracks are badly dated by Boland's insistence upon using an inferior electric piano, whereas no piano at all on these performances would have sounded far better. McRae's voice is also subjected to excessive reverb in "November Girl," taking something away from what is otherwise a fine effort. The band is in great form, with a number of strong solos (though none are credited) and excellent section work. Among the all-star band's members are trumpeters Art Farmer, Benny Bailey, and Idrees Sulieman and saxophonists Billy Mitchell, Sahib Shihab (who doubles on flute), and Tony Coe, along with Boland and drummer Kenny Clarke. Dizzy Gillespie is a surprise guest, playing snare drums on one track. This is a good session that could have been far better without the cheesy electronics.


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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