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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



  CARMEN McRAE, the definite website

This site is a tribute to one of the best – if not THE best – jazz singers in the history of the genre.

Eight years younger than her idol, Billie Holiday, Carmen McRae was a contemporary of Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. Ella and Sarah were already well established by the time Carmen came onto the scene, but it wasn’t long before Carmen was considered their artistic equal, although she never achieved their wide popularity. She never had a huge hit nor did she ever receive a Grammy.  But, on the other hand, she never made a bad record nor compromised her high standards.

Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan inspired awe with their vocal prowess.  Ella – with her perfect pitch and unerring sense of time – could reproduce any instrumental jazz riff, and Sarah – with her multi-octave range and ultra-flexible voice – could change octave and color on a single note.  Carmen, however, could bring a tear to the eye or a lump to the throat, with her reading of a lyric. That was her great talent.  She combined the ability to project the emotional connotations of a song with a musical intelligence that was derived in part from her knowledge of the piano.

This site strives to present a complete picture of Carmen McRae the artist.  The biography is approached in several ways – from the perfunctory listing in the Grove Dictionary of Jazz to a timeline from Leslie Gourse’s book, Miss Jazz, to audio clips from NPR interviews with Carmen.  Carol Sloane and Hammond Guthrie tell charming stories of their first encounter with the singer and colleagues such as Mundell Lowe, who played guitar on Carmen's first major recording, and John Clayton, who led his orchestra on one of her last albums, speak about her artistry. (See Friends and Fans.)

Carmen’s recording history is described in detail, with critical analysis interspersed with album listings.
(For example, Norman Simmons, Carmen’s accompanist and musical director during the 1960s, makes particularly astute observations about her unique style.)  A page is devoted to each of the 51 original albums, with a photo of the cover and musician and track listings. (See List of Original Albums)

The Press section contains historical articles from Down Beat, The New York Times and Time, beginning in 1954, when Carmen was named Best New Female Jazz Singer by Down Beat and ending with a 1991 interview in the same magazine in which the veteran singer looks at the current jazz scene with a jaundiced eye.  That was the year her career ended, with what would be her last recording (Sarah) and final performance (at the Blue Note.)

There are dozens of musical sound bites, savory reminders for fans and an introduction to the unacquainted of Carmen's many moods.  Sweet and sassy, soulful and swinging, reverent and raunchy, you’ll hear them all.  And every one, wonderful.

We hope that, after delving into this site, you will come away with a new or reinforced appreciation of this remarkable artist. And if you ARE inspired, check out our list of recommended CDs.
(See Starter Set.)

Happy exploring!

"Carmen McRae is indisputably one of the greatest vocalists the idiom has ever produced."
– Will Friedwald, author of Jazz Singing

"She’s always given me the feeling that she respects lyrics at least as much as she does music, and that, I think, is the secret of her strength: the balance she maintains between the two." – Gene Lees, jazz writer, lyricist


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