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  Overview
  1940s, 50s
  1960s
  1960s, cont'd
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RECORDINGS - 1960s
Columbia, Focus, Mainstream

"It was at this time, the early 60s, when she developed her individuality. Her voice was inseparable from her style and her feeling for the essence of songs."
NORMAN SIMMONS, Carmen’s accompanist /music director from 1961-69

KAPP

In London, Ember, released by Kapp, 1962
With Don Abney on piano, Phil Seaman on drums, and Kenny Napper on bass.
Recorded live at the legendary Flamingo Jazz Club in London.

Carmen does her best to warm up the reserved English audience with a selection of classic songs from the American songbook.

Reissued on CD by Ember, 1999

COLUMBIA

Tonight Only With The Dave Brubeck Quartet, 1960
Carmen sings six songs composed by Brubeck, one each by altoist Paul Desmond and bassist Eugene Wright, none of which became a hit.

Take Five at Basin Street West
w/Dave Brubeck, 1961

"When Carmen sang ‘Take Five,’ there weren’t many vocalists singing in 5/4 times and she had no time to prepare for that either. It was just put in front of her and ‘sing this.’ That took a lot of nerve and talent. Maybe I should put ‘talent’ first."
-- DAVE BRUBECK,from NPR’s Jazz Profiles, Carmen McRae, 1996

The Real Ambassadors, w/Louis Armstrong, 1962
With the Dave Brubeck trio with Gene Wright on bass and Joe Morello on drums; Louis Armstrong and his All Stars; and Dave Lambert, Jon Hendricks & Annie Ross vocal trio.
In 1961, Dave Brubeck put together a remarkable musical show. He and his wife, lyricist
Iola, wrote a largely upbeat play full of anti-racism songs and tunes that celebrated human understanding...Satch and Carmen McRae make for a very potent team, and there are many touching and surprising moments.
SCOTT YANOW from allmusic.com  Example: "You Swing for Me."

Lover Man, tribute to Billie Holiday, 1961
With Norman Simmons on piano, Bob Cranshaw on bass, Walter Perkins on drums, Mundell Lowe on guitar, Nat Adderley on cornet, and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis on tenor saxophone.

From where I listen, no greater compliment could be paid Carmen McRae that to say she had done this extraordinarily difficult task exactly right… Angels would never have dared to tread here; it took a great singer, a great actress and a great woman to do it, and Carmen is all three.
RALPH GLEASON, from original liner notes

"She could really draw an audience into her songs. The key was her love affair with words and even syllables. Carmen could bring out the emotions behind the words of a lyric - a sense of joy or pain – just by the way she delivered a line. In the song "Lover Man," she emphasized the negative – "don’t" – that stopped the line in its tracks. Then she emphasized another word in the next line, and "lover" in the next. She practically bites her lip to say "lover," and she subtly repeated the beginning consonants of a word to serve as her improvisation. That trick of enunciation underscored the meaning of a word and filled it with emotion."
-NORMAN SIMMONS,
arranged Lover Man.

Something Wonderful, 1963
With the Buddy Bregman Orchestra
Songs from Broadway shows such as Cole Porter’s "Anything Goes" and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s "South Pacific."
Reissued on Sony Collectables, 2001, with 3 bonus tracks.

FOCUS

Bittersweet,
1964
With Norman Simmons on piano, Victor Sproles on bass, Curtis Boyd on drums and Mundell Lowe on guitar.

"Carmen McRae made many worthwhile albums during her long career, but this session of mostly melancholy ballads never received the exposure it deserved, possibly because it was done for Mort Fega’s small independent label, Focus…Fortunately, Koch had the wisdom to reissue this lost treasure, and it easily ranks among Carmen McRae's best recordings."
- KEN DRYDEN
from allmusic.com}
Example: I'm Gonna Laugh You Right Out of My Life,

Reissued on CD by Koch Jazz, 2002

MAINSTREAM

In Person, (first issued by TIME under the title Live at Sugar Hill), 1963
With Norman Simmons on piano, Victor Sproles on bass, and Stu Martin on drums.

"Most critics praise Carmen McRae: Live at Sugar Hill as a milestone in her career…This was the first album, Norman Simmons thought, on which Carmen’s true personality blossomed. She did exactly what she wanted. No one handed her songs and told her what to do with them. It had happened often that record companies asked her to record songs she had never seen before going into the studio, and she didn’t really feel familiar enough with them. But Bobby Shad of Mainstream was the Artists and Repertoire man for Live at Sugar Hill. He allowed Carmen to hire her own musicians and to choose her own songs and plan every moment of the recording. She sounded more relaxed and natural than ever before on records, talking and rapping with audiences. The album captured the style she had achieved in clubs when she nurtured her loyal following." - LESLIE GOURSE, from Carmen McRae, Ms. Jazz
Example: Let There Be Love

"For an immediate demonstration of McRae's strong suit go right to Rodgers and Hart's poignant meditation on loneliness, 'It Never Entered My Mind.' Listen to her phrasing and elocution, especially the second time around on the bridge—'And now I even have to scratch my back myself.' No singer can mine a word like 'scratch"'for its full onomatopoeic value like McRae, clawing her way right into the listener's defenseless psyche. And on 'Thou Swell' she makes the song's last word—'grand'—sound like an Art Blakey press roll launching the first instrumental solo.
But juxtaposed with the phonetic abrasives and incisive attacks is a soft and seductive quality capable of taking a 'man's song' like Gordon Jenkins' haunting 'This Is All I Ask' and making it incontrovertibly her own: 'soft-spoken men, speak a little softer...' She growls and scratches, then suddenly allows her tones to melt into a warm, purring vibrato (which would later desert her), while taking full advantage of a full-throated vocal range extending from low C to the second G above middle C....
Whether a song qualifies as a standard or not, McRae demonstrates how even lesser material, when interpreted by a performer who is both a complete musician and a gifted dramatic actress, can be raised to the level of timeless art." - SAMUEL CHELL. allaboutjazz.com

Live and Doin’ It, 1965
Live and Wailing, 1965
Carmen McRae
, 1966
All with the same trio

Second to None, 1964 with orchestra
Arranged and conducted by Peter Matz.
Another tasteful rendering of songs, mostly ballads, from the Songbook, such as "The Music That Makes Me Dance" and "Blame It on My Youth." But, she did include a Beatles’ tune, "And I Love Him."

Haven’t We Met, 1965 with orchestra
Arranged and conducted by Don Sebesky.
Selections include a few contemporary tunes among the mix of uptempo and ballad standards. "Who Can I Turn To?" (When Nobody Needs Me) is an example of the kind of tune Carmen does best.

Woman Talk, Live at the Village Gate, 1966
With the Norman Simmons on piano, Paul Breslin on bass, Frank Severino on drums, Ray Beckinstein on flute, Joe Puma on guitar, and Jose Manual on bongos.

 

"Carmen had complete control. She slowed words down and trailed off on others. She spent time milking each word that could be milked. And she might scat upward on a word to imply that the lyric was aiming at a heavenly feeling. She sang "again and again and again," to emphasize the lovemaking in a lyric. She could pick up the tempo in a song so that it sounded like the rapid beating of her heart, and she could change lyrics to get her point across, singing "groove" instead of "leads" – and "scurry" instead of "run," and praise the hipness of the "cat" being too close for comfort. She could honk or bray a hard-edged, piercing line or word and end it a whimsical, airy syllable."- NORMAN SIMMONS
Example: Too Close for Comfort

Reissues and Collections of the Mainstream albums

The Ultimate Carmen McRae
, 1993, Sony Legacy
A collection of sixteen songs from the above albums, including "Alfie."

Carmen McRae, 1964 Orchestra Recordings, 2006, Lonehill
Reissue of Second to None and Haven’t We Met

Alive! (reissue of Woman Talk and Live and Wailing), 1994, Sony Legacy
Two great live sessions when Carmen was injecting her personality into song interpretations.

"Carmen achieved suspense by the way she phrased lyrics. She wasn’t just taking a breath when she left a space in a line. The space was an emphatic pause she inserted before she delivered the next sound. The pulse that I supplied had to be there for her all the time, but the vocal line had to have breathing spaces – pauses, with nothing intruding. When she stopped, I waited for her to start again. The silence became part of the music, and I learned to leave the silences alone."
- NORMAN SIMMONS























 
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