Monday, June 29, 2015

AccuRadio Song Of The Day-Carmen McRae

Artist:Carmen McRae
Song:Listen To Monk
Album:Carmen Sings Monk

Carmen McRae was one of the all time great jazz singers. Her career began in the 40s and she remained active until her 1991 retirement and 1994 death. Carmen Sings Monk is from late in her career that you might overlook but you shouldn't. She was born Apr. 8, 1920 in Harlem, New York. She began piano lessons at age eight and she met Billie Holiday at age 17. Teddy Wilson had Billie record one of Carmen's songs. Carmen has always acknowledged Billie as her biggest influence. While working as a secretary, Carmen played piano at the New York jazz club Minton's Playhouse. Dizzy Gillespie saw her and he got her a job in Benny Carter's big band. She also worked with Count Basie and Mercer Ellington. Then Milt Gabler signed her to Decca Records in 1948. She recorded for Decca in the 50s including two albums with Sammy Davis Jr. She moved to Columbia in the early 60s and worked a lot with Dave Brubeck including Brubeck's The Real Ambassadors project which also featured Louis Armstrong. She recorded for Atlantic from the mid-60s to the mid-70s. She also recorded for Blue Note. At Concord, Carmen recorded with George Shearing and Cal Tjader and a tribute to Nat King Cole. Carmen Sings Monk was released in 1988 on RCA's Novus label. It's a tribute to Thelonious Monk. Jon Hendricks was brought in to write lyrics to some of Monk's best known songs. Listen To Monk is based on Rhythm-A-Ning. Musicians on the album include Charlie Rouse on tenor sax who played with Monk, Clifford Jordan on sax, Larry Willis and Eric Gunnison on piano, George Mraz on bass and Al Foster on drums. RCA released Carmen Sings Monk as a budget CD in 2001 with bonus alternate takes. You don't want to overlook this album just because it was late in Carmen's career. After recording one more album in 1990, Carmen McRae retired from music. A long time smoker, Carmen suffered respiratory failure and retired in 1991. She died on Nov. 10, 1994 at age 74. Here's Carmen McRae with Clifford Jordan, Eric Gunnison, Scott Colley and Al Foster performing Listen To Monk at the 1988 Montreal Jazz Festival. This was released on DVD but is out of print.

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