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*Carmen McRae was born on this date in 1920. She was a Black jazz vocalist and pianist.
From New York City, McRae studied classical piano as a child, worked with bandleaders Benny Carter and Count Basie in 1944, and made her recording debut as Carmen Clarke (being then married to jazz drummer Kenny Clarke) with Mercer Ellington's orchestra in 1946-47. She spent several years as an intermission pianist in small nightclubs and non-musical jobs until successfully recording in 1953 and 1954. From the mid-1950s, she toured extensively (particularly popular in Japan), recorded frequently, and appeared in many musical contexts.
She outgrew an early emulation of vocalist Billie Holiday to become a distinctive stylist known for her smoky voice and lyrical, melodic variations--mostly on jazz standards. Her improvisations were innovative, complex, and elegant. Carmen McRae died on Nov. 10, 1994, in Beverly Hills, California.