I only have ears for you!
Written by Ophi - - 4 comments
And... I'm not really into the mood for writing, and certainly not in English.
Whatever. As we say in French, "L'appétit vient en mangeant" (yes, you got it right: "Appetite comes with eating").
There's Billie. Then, there's Ella, and Sarah — not necessarily in that order. The Holy Trinity of female vocal jazz (which I'd gladly turn into a Holy Quaternity by adding Dinah, but that's not the point).
But, there's also Carmen; and a few others, but that's not the point either. Carmen Mercedes McRae, born in 1920, who drew her influence from Billie Holiday, to the point that she never performed without singing at least one tune closely associated with her (she recorded at least three albums in tribute to Lady Day, but... that's not... huhu. The point).
As usual, I learned quite a few things doing some research for this post. For once, that in her early twenties, Carmen played the piano at Minton's Playhouse (y'know, where bebop was born, on 52nd Street). She also sang as chorus girl, and worked as secretary. And that she got her first important job as pianist, with the Benny Carter big band in 1944 — then with the Mercer Ellington big band.
Whatever. My intention is not to write a Carmen McRae biography here (you'll find plenty of information on the Big Bad Web if you really want some), but to introduce you to a fine 1971 live recording, on which Carmen is backed by pianist Jimmy Rowles, guitarist Joe Pass and two Chucks on bass and drums — Domanico and Flores, respectively.
I LOVE this album — of course... otherwise, why would I share it? With a soft spot for "Satin Doll", "I Only Have Eyes for You", "I Thought About You" and "The Ballad of Thelonious Monk", a tongue-in-cheek composition by pianist Jimmy Rowles.
Talking about "Satin Doll": Legend has it that when Duke and Strayhorn wrote that tune, in 1953, then went to Slim Gaillard to ask him for a small contribution to the lyrics. Hence the "switch-a-rooney" part, which not all vocalists sing, by the way (and Slim doesn't even seem to be credited for this essential contribution. Shame).
Okay. Enough gibberish. Time for music!