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Thu, 04.08.1920

Carmen McRae, Jazz Singer born

Carmen McRae

*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 in non-musical jobs until successfully recording in 1953 and 1954. From the mid-1950s, she toured extensively (being particularly popular in Japan), recorded frequently, and appeared in many musical contexts.

She who outgrew an early emulation of vocalist Billie Holiday to become a distinctive stylist, known for her smoky voice and her 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.

All That Jazz The Illustrated Story of Jazz Music
General Editor: Ronald Atkins
Copyright 1996, Carlton Books Limited
ISBN 0-76519-953-X

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