See and hear
NY Times Obit
PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED RECORDINGS - THE 1990s
Song Time, 1993
"The songs had to be abbreviated to 'radio time,' two or three minutes in
length. When Carmen listened to the tracks that she had recorded thirty
years before, she liked them, but claimed that 'she was much better then.' Her favorite song on the CD is "The Right To Love," typical of the songs she
liked to sing: 'songs you can sing your teeth into, especially ballads about
life, love and things that happen that haven’t been spoken about in a long
Recorded live session on December 31, 1983, broadcast live over National Public Radio through "The American Jazz Radio Festival" of WBGO-FM in Newark. (That’s BGO’s long-time jazz jock Rhonda Hamilton introducing Carmen.)
"Billie’s songs were always essential at a Carmen McRae performance and
never more so than during this Billie Holiday 'festival' at the Blue Note.
It And what’s also evident is that Carmen was inspired by Billie but never
imitated Billie. There were many similarities, yet Carmen and Billie were
also alike in being unique. They both musicalized their speaking voices, all
the more emotionally direct when telling stories in the songs. They both
phrased with a timbre that was somewhat trumpet-like, Billie’s voice often
sweeter as if played through a mute, Carmen’s voice much more open and
brassier. When she first jumps into 'Miss Brown to You,' the song is
Billie’s but the singing is unquestionably and unquenchably Carmen’s.
Carmen’s signature as a singer is everywhere, like on 'Good Morning
Heartache' in the way she sings whimsically 'sit down' And in the way she
suspends 'haunting' only for a moment but enough to break a heart."
Don’t Misunderstand, 1997
HITCHCOCK MEDIA RECORDS
At Ratso’s, Volumes 1 and 2, 2002
Recorded at Ratso’s jazz club in Chicago in 1976, with Marshall Otwell on piano, Ed Bennett on bass and Joey Baron on drums.
"Carmen McRae never had to confront the kind of Tin Pan Alley Songplugger
Dross that her idol Billie Holiday was handed in the 1930s. But she had the
same ability to transform ordinary material into something of value. Anyone
who recalls the transitory Top Forty versions of the 1970s pop songs McRae
sings here will marvel as she fashions them into proper companions for
imperishable classics…Carmen had an unfailing ear for the best material. For
her, the main attraction of some of these songs may well have been the
lyrics. A thorough musician who knew the implications of a song’s every
chord, Carmen was also a supreme vocal actress, honing in on the emotional
heat that would bond her to the audience…In her incomparable literate and
deeply felt interpretation of lyrics, you can hear her love of the meaning
in verbal connection. The pain and the catch in her throat are real when she
sings, 'I won’t let sorrow hurt me, not like it’s hurt me before.'
This collection also had generous samples of another aspect of her ability
to communicate. As an audience schmoozer, Carmen was in a league with Dizzy
Gillespie and Cannonball Adderley. Listen to the spontaneity of her funny
asides during ‘Taint Nobody’s Business If I Do' and her earthy ones in 'Just a Little Lovin’.'"
A beautifully packaged presentation. The band sounds great, but often
overpowers the singer.
COMPILATIONS AND COLLECTIONS
They keep coming, adding to the confusion for the collector. Print out a check sheet of the original recordings as a guide. You will find some albums reissued by several labels, and some recorded songs appearing on several collections. Reissued of original albums are best, and sometimes you’ll find two originals on one CD. Choose your collection or compilation carefully. Otherwise you may end up with duplicate versions of the same original. Rule of thumb: check to see if original recording information is included and compare track lists.
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