Carmen McRae – Live At Ratso’s Vol.1 (Full Album)

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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan:
Ron Hitchcock has managed to unearth previously unreleased material, mostly live performances, of Stan Kenton andWoody Herman, among others. His endeavors have resulted in a respectable catalog for his Hitchcock Media company. Hitchcock outdid himself this time by releasing in two volumes of Carmen McRae’s appearance at the now defunct Ratso’s Jazz Club in Chicago in 1976. Both volumes come from Saturday and Sunday night performances. Each CD has its own distinct and diverse play list; there are no duplications. McRae was at the top of her form. She applies her inimitable and immediately recognizable smoky timbre to a play list of mostly familiar tunes. McRae was influenced by the bop masters of her time, and she doesn’t hesitate to give her offerings a boppish inflection. But most of all, it’s her deep respect for the lyrics that often sets her apart from her peers. Her phrasing was designed to make sure that the true message of each song, complete with appropriate emotional emphasis, is never ambivalent or vague. When McRae sang a song, you knew exactly what her interpretation of the words conveyed. And she didn’t have to rely on any vocal gymnastics or other gimmickry. Her unembellished, straight-ahead delivery was all that was necessary to put over a tune and to display her considerable talent. Renditions such as “I Am Music” (which she had recorded just a year before) and “You and I” are examples of this unique way with a song. The up-tempo “Them There Eyes,” with its elongated phrasing, is one gem from a set filled with precious material. Her trio then was Marshall Otwell on piano, Ed Bennett on bass, and a young Joey Baron on drums. The sound is excellent. This is essential McRae and is thoroughly recommended.

Track listing:

1. Music
2. You And I
3. Elusive Butterfly
4. Lost Up In Loving You
5. Hey John
6. All By Myself
7. A Letter For Anna Lee
8. Ellington Medley: Satin Doll, Mood Indigo, I Didn’t Know About You, It Don’t Mean A Thing
9. Would You Believe
10. Them There Eyes
11. Dindi
12. I Am Music

Personnel:

Carmen McRae – vocals
Marshall Otwell – piano
Ed Bennett – bass
Joey Baron – drums

Recorded live at Ratso’s, Chicago, Illinois in 1976.

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