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  See and hear Carmen
  Grove Dictionary

  Miss Jazz
  NY Times Obit

  Ralph Gleason
  Carol Sloane
  Hammond Guthrie

  Interview by Art Taylor

Complete List of Original


  1940s, 50s
  1960s, cont'd

Starter Set

10 Recommended

Film, Television, Radio

Friends and Fans


About us






Song Time, 1993
Recorded in the 1960s for a radio series "The Navy Swings" with the Norman Simmons trio.

"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 time.'" – From liner notes.


For Lady Day, Volumes 1 and 2, 1995
Accompanied by Marshall Otwell on piano, John Leftwich on bass, and Donald Bailey on drums and occasionally the tenor of Zoot Sims

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."
, host, Singers Unlimited, WBGO.  From liner notes.


Don’t Misunderstand, 1997
With Marshall Otwell on piano, John Leftwich on bass, and Donald Bailey on drums
This set recorded at the 1982 Montreux Jazz Festival has been reissued by numerous labels, with different titles. Check the track list before you buy.


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’.'"
from liner notes.
Doug Ramsey is the author of Jazz Matters: Reflections on the Music and Some of Its Makers, a contributor to The Oxford Companion To Jazz
and Jazz Times, and the winner of an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for writing about the music of Bill Evans..  Doug's blog:


Dream of Life, 1998
Recorded in June, 1989, with the WDR (West German Radio) big band in Cologne, Germany, with Eric Gunnison on piano. Bassist John Clayton arranged and conducted.

A beautifully packaged presentation. The band sounds great, but often overpowers the singer.


Live at Umbria
Jazz 2002
With Eric Gunnison (p), Mark Simon (b), and Mark Pulice (d).

Recorded live at the Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia, Italy, 1990


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.

If you a new Carmen fan, see our recommended Starter Set and our list of Ten Recommended Original Albums.


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