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  BIOGRAPHY - GROVE DICTIONARY
McRae, Carmen
(b New York 8 April 1920; d. Los Angeles 10 November 1994)


Singer. She studied piano privately in her early years and began her career as a singer with Benny Carterís orchestra (1944). Her early and enduring influence was Billie Holiday. After performing with the bands led by Count Basie and Mercer Ellington (1946-7), she worked as an intermission pianist and stand-up singer at Mintonís Playhouse and other clubs in New York, where she listened to and absorbed the sounds of bop, and came under the influence of Sarah Vaughan. In 1954 she made her first recordings as a leader and was named "best new female singer" by Down Beat; the following year she signed a recording contract with Decca, which issued her superb renditions of "Suppertime," "Yardbird Suite," and "You Took Advantage of Me." From that time she has pursued an active career as a solo singer, performing in clubs, at concerts, and at festivals; she made several tours of Europe and Japan from the 1960s into the 1980s. In 1967 she settled in Los Angeles. She was married to Kenny Clarke and to Ike Isaacs. In 1988 she recorded an album of vocalese versions of compositions by Thelonious Monk at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.



McRae is an important figure among the group of singers that was directly influenced by the emergence of bop. Her voice has an immediately recognizable "smoky" timbre, and she performs popular ballads and jazz numbers with bop phrasing and inflections. She is especially inventive as a scat singer and has an instinctive feeling for rhythm. She is also a thoroughly competent pianist.

The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, edited by Barry Kernfeld; St. Martinís Press, New York, 1988, reprinted 1991, 1995, 1996

 





 
 
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