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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1988 | RCA Bluebird

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Carmen McRae, a good friend of Thelonious Monk, sang 13 of his songs (two of which are also heard in different live versions) on this memorable project. Half of the lyrics are by Jon Hendricks, while the remainder were written by Abbey Lincoln ("Blue Monk"), Bernie Hanighen, Sally Swisher, or Mike Ferro. On all but the two concert performances, McRae is assisted by tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan, pianist Eric Gunnison, bassist George Mraz, and drummer Al Foster; Mraz's solos are particularly impressive, although everyone is in sensitive form. The live recordings give listeners two more chances to acknowledge the uniqueness of tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse's tone. As for McRae, her phrasing has rarely sounded better than on this classic set, and it is a particular pleasure to hear her interpret the intelligent lyrics and unusual melodies. "Dear Ruby" ("Ruby, My Dear") and "Listen to Monk" ("Rhythm-A-Ning") are among the high points of the essential and very delightful CD. An inspired idea and one of the best recordings of Carmen McRae's career. ~ Scott Yanow
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Jazz - Released September 20, 1956 | Verve Reissues

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Jazz - Released May 17, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

In the late '60s Carmen McRae signed up with Atlantic Records and turned the creative reins over to producer Joel Dorn for 1967's For Once in My Life. The record is made up mostly of contemporary songs by Bacharach/David, Brian Wilson, the Beatles, and Buffy Sainte-Marie, and at first glance one might think that the record is just a callow attempt to jump on the pop bandwagon. One would be wrong because the record is a success whatever the intentions. McRae's voice is not as sweet as it once was but she is as incredible an interpreter of songs as ever. With Dorn mostly providing restrained and sometimes groovy backings, she turns in some wonderful performances. The two Beach Boys songs are heartbreaking; "Don't Talk" is one of the better covers of a Wilson song you are liable to hear. "Come Live With Me" is a swinging number that sounds like something Sammy Davis, Jr. would have torn up around this time. Leiber & Stoller's "Flying" is another light and smooth that works very well. The only song that falls flat is the Vegas-style take on the Beatles' "Got to Get You Into My Life," where Dorn lays on the glitz and Carmen sounds lost. While there isn't a whole lot of jazz to be found here, fans of McRae shouldn't be scared off by the songs or the era as this is actually one of the better albums she recorded in the second half of her career. [The album was reissued as part of a two-disc set (The Art of Carmen McRae/For Once in My Life) with a collection of McRae's Atlantic-era recordings making up the other disc.] ~ Tim Sendra
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1958 | Verve Reissues

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Jazz - Released January 17, 1997 | Columbia - Legacy

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1977 | CM BLUE NOTE (A92)

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Carmen McRae has always shined on stage, and this fine account of her 1976 three-night stand at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco proves the point. Couched in that stellar Blue Note sound, McRae ranges far and wide on a set of standards. And McRae not only spices things up with an impressive reading of the bossa nova standard "Dindi," but she even goes completely out of her expected domain with a version of the Alice Cooper ballad "Only Woman Bleed" -- interesting, to say the least. Surprisingly, though, she turns this FM hit into one of the most effective performances here. The whole recording is remarkable, for that matter. And this, no doubt, can be traced to the McRae's choice of backing, which includes the venerable Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet and future drumming heavyweight Joey Baron. A must for McRae fans. ~ Stephen Cook
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2003 | Verve

If you are making a shortlist of the best jazz singers, Carmen McRae had better be right at the top. She had a distinctive voice, able to do heartbreaking and lighthearted equally as thrillingly. She had an unerring sense of melody and her phrasing is a thing of beauty. This collection covers her work in the mid-'50s for Decca both with small groups and larger orchestras. She shines on swinging tracks like "Comes Love," "Falling in Love With Love," and "I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket" and won't leave a dry eye in the house with her deeply emotional ballad singing. "Do You Know Why," "Midnight Sun," and the achingly beautiful "I'm Glad There Is You" are prime examples of McRae's way with a ballad. Each of the 16 tracks here is like a primer on how to be a vocalist, jazz or otherwise. McRae's entry in Verve's Diva Series is a fine introduction to her 1950s recordings. ~ Tim Sendra
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Jazz - Released May 17, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

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Pop - Released January 1, 1958 | GRP

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Jazz - Released January 1, 2006 | Verve Reissues

Romantic ballads were Carmen McRae's specialty, and her streetwise yet sophisticated phrasing carried just enough world-weariness to suggest that she actually understood what she was singing about (being in love or having been in love doesn't automatically mean you can convincingly sing about it -- McRae could, though). This collection of mid- to late-'50s material for Decca Records doubles both as a collection of love songs and as a fine introduction to the singer in her early years -- when she still had full control of her upper vocal register. With impeccable jazz backing, songs here like "When I Fall in Love," "If Love Is Good to Me," "My Funny Valentine," and "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye" are given beautiful and definitive readings by McRae. "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," from 1958's Birds of a Feather album, is a particular delight, thanks to a wonderful arrangement and the presence of horn men Irwin "Marky" Markowitz (trumpet), Tony Miranda (French horn), and Ben Webster, whose tenor saxophone lead line toward the end of the song literally becomes the voice of the nightingale. Sleek, moving, and sophisticated, Carmen McRae for Lovers is a concise introduction to a marvelous singer covering the kind of material that she did best. ~ Steve Leggett
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Vocal Jazz - Released March 18, 1991 | RCA Bluebird

The follow-up to the essential Carmen Sings Monk is a tribute to the recently deceased Sarah Vaughan that ranks at the same very high level. Carmen McRae's final recording finds the singer backed by the Shirley Horn Trio (unfortunately, Horn turned down McRae's request to sing a bit) on 13 numbers associated with Sassy, plus Carroll Coates' original "Sarah." On such songs as "Poor Butterfly," "Misty," "Tenderly," "I'll Be Seeing You" and even "Send in the Clowns," McRae brings back the spirit (and some of the phrasing) of Sarah Vaughan while still sounding very much like herself. This very well-conceived tribute is a classic of its kind and a perfect swan song for Carmen McRae. ~ Scott Yanow
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1958 | Verve

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Vocal Jazz - Released April 14, 1997 | Columbia - Legacy

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1955 | GRP

Other than a record for Bethlehem and a few scattered selections, this LP (most of which has been reissued on CD) has Carmen McRae's earliest recordings. Although her voice is higher than it would be and her style is not as recognizable, she was already a top-notch singer at this early stage. Some numbers have McRae joined by the Mat Matthews Quintet (featuring Matthews on accordion and the young Herbie Mann on flute), while others have her joined by pianist Dick Katz, guitarist Mundell Lowe, bassist Wendell Marshall, and her ex-husband Kenny Clarke on drums. McRae plays piano on "Suppertime," and Billy Strayhorn sits in on his own "Something to Live For." Among the other songs that McRae uplifts and swings are "Give Me the Simple Life," "Sometimes I'm Happy," "Yardbird Suite," and "This Will Make You Laugh." ~ Scott Yanow
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2000 | Verve

An in-depth 19-track overview of the career of jazz vocalist Carmen McRae, demonstrating her bebop-influenced vocal styling ranging from blues ballads to fluid bop scat. Part of the Verve Finest Hour series, this well-presented album is a fine introduction to the artist at an affordable price. ~ Zac Johnson
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1996 | Verve Reissues

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Jazz - Released June 23, 1986 | Savoy

This little-known date, recorded for the Japanese Denon label, features singer Carmen McRae with her regular quartet of the time (pianist Eric Gunnison, bassist Scott Colley, drummer Mark Pulice and guitarist John Collins) and guest tenor Clifford Jordan. McRae is heard in prime form performing a variety of top standards, including "Tulip or Turnip," "Have You Met Miss Jones," "Body and Soul" and "Mean to Me." Although recorded in the studio, this excellent outing gives listeners a good idea of how Carmen McRae sounded live. Well worth searching for. ~ Scott Yanow
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Jazz - Released September 14, 2004 | Rhino Atlantic

Jazz - Released March 4, 2014 | Bethlehem Records

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Jazz - Released August 31, 2004 | Rhino Atlantic

Released in 1970, Just a Little Lovin' was the fourth (and last) studio album Carmen McRae cut for Atlantic Records in the late '60s/early '70s. The albums were for the most part a mix of pop and jazz songs with a decidedly pop angle. Just a Little Lovin' isn't too different, though it leans more toward the soulful end of the street. Producer Arif Mardin put McRae together with the Dixie Flyers studio band, backup singers extraordinaire the Sweet Inspirations, and an all-star horn section led by King Curtis, and then let her loose on the usual Beatles covers (a lifeless "Something," a very relaxed and sensual "Here, There and Everywhere," and a dramatic take on "Carry That Weight") and pop tunes like Jimmy Webb's "Didn't We" and Laura Nyro's "Goodbye Joe." So far, so half decent. Where the album really takes off is on the tracks that sound more down-home and Southern, like those cribbed from Dusty in Memphis ("Just a Little Lovin'," "Breakfast in Bed"), the Willie Dixon blues "I Love the Life I Live," and the tracks written by Tony Joe White (the funky-as-dirt "I Thought I Knew You Well" and "I Want You"). The band sounds totally in the groove on these cuts and McRae responds with some supremely gritty performances. As with all her other Atlantic records, it's a mixed bag but well worth picking up for Carmen McRae fans -- and if you aren't one, you should be! ~ Tim Sendra