Today In Jazz

Happy Birthday Carmen McRae!

April 8

Today is the 94th birthday of Carmen McRae (1920-1994). Known for her immaculate diction and soulful style, McRae was mentored by Billie Holiday while still a teenager – Holiday even recorded McRae’s song DREAM OF LIFE in 1939:

McRae played good jazz piano and was respected by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and their disciples as a musician first, and it was from that that her reputation grew.

By the 1950’s, McRae was recording for major labels, and was viewed as a peer of not only her mentor Holiday, but also of Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan, who may have sold more records but did not outshine her talent-wise. She seemed to straddle the distance between a “singer’s singer” and a commercial artist.

Here are a handful of highlights showcasing her unique talents as we remember Carmen McRae, a great jazz artist.

With Dave Brubeck:

Playing piano with Dizzy Gillespie:

And a complete concert from 1988 with saxophonist Clifford Jordan featured in her band – this is something to behold: