Carmen McRae

Carmen McRae ( born April 8, 1920 in Harlem, NYC, † November 10, 1994 in Beverly Hills ) was an American jazz singer.


Carmen McRae took private piano lessons and began very early to write her own songs. In New York's Apollo Theater, she won an amateur competition. One of their songs, " Dream of Life " came on Teddy Wilson in the hands of Billie Holiday, which started him in the early 1940s. In Wilson's former wife Irene Kitchings McRae worked as a demo singer who sold this way their songs to agencies, such as the later jazz standard " Some Other Spring". To her idol she later said, "If Billie Holiday does not exist, it probably would not have even given me."

1946 McRae married the drummer Kenny Clarke ( the marriage was divorced in 1949 ). Also in 1946 she had her first singing appearances with Benny Carter and Count Basie, then in the short-lived band of Mercer Ellington. She worked as a pause singer and pianist in various Chicago and then in New York jazz clubs, including the Minton 's Playhouse in Harlem, worked part-time as a stenographer before it was discovered in 1953 by Milt Gabler for Decca Records, where they 1954 their first own records recorded as a singer. In 1956, she married bassist Ike Isaacs, who also accompanied her on her Newport appearance in 1957 and others. The mid-1950s produced some albums for the small Bethlehem label in which, inter alia, Tony Scott, Herbie Mann and accordionist Mat Mathews participated ( By Request ). It followed their productions for Decca; in the album Boys Meets Girl (1957 ) she sang duets with Sammy Davis, Jr.; in Mad About the Man ( 1957) she performed songs by Noël Coward and arranged by Ralph Burns on the album Birds of a Feather was accompanied by Ben Webster and Mundell Lowe.

In the summer of 1961 was probably their best album, her tribute to her idol Lady Day Carmen McRae Sings Lover Man and Other Billie Holiday Classics on Columbia Records, on which she was accompanied among others by Nat Adderley, Eddie Lockjaw Davis and Mundell Lowe. In the 1960s, she remained - one of the few jazz -oriented singers - true to their style, even if it thereby newer song material from Billy Joel, Lennon / McCartney, Stevie Wonder and Michel Legrand integrated. She has performed both as a nightclub singer as well as concerts and festivals, including at the Monterey Jazz Festival, the World Jazz Festival in Japan ( 1964) and 1968 on the Berkeley Jazz Festival. In 1987, she appeared ( The Carmen McRae - Betty Carter Duets ) together with Betty Carter.

Due to emphysema, the heavy smoker McRae moved in 1991 from show business back.

Musical meaning

The highly respected by their fellow singer was always in the shadow of the three sizes of Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald; this meant the rank Carmen McRae: " What but is sometimes the jazz and show business for a madhouse! If it were only on talent, so you would have a thousand wonderful things have happened to. " " She can sing everything, everything, " she praised Anita O'Day; for Dionne Warwick, she was " an institution, a wonderful singer and performer ."

The author Will Friedwald paid tribute to the singer in his book Swinging Voices of America as follows: " Her sharp, biting may sound approaches that of Billie Holiday; their way to change melody lines, is strongly related to Vaughan / Eckstine School and the knowledge of harmonic practice as opposed to theory, which is necessary to paraphrase so certain lines, such as McRae does it, goes far beyond what the average Scat singers also. "

Discography (selection)

Solo albums

Recordings with other artists

Contributing to recordings by other artists