This is a gem of an album and one of my favorites by McRae. It was recorded live for Atlantic Records at Donte's Club in Los Angeles on November 6, 1971 and released the following year. What I love is not only the choice of songs, but the sound quality and the performance itself. The set not only contains established standards by Ellington, Cole Porter and the other greats, but some new (at the time) material. Including Burt Bacharach's "They Long To Be Close To You" in the set was a wise decision in my opinion. It deserves to be a standard. Of course there is the obligatory Billie Holiday song that McRae would include in all of her performances. On this album it's "I Cried For You", which was one of Billie's first recordings in 1936. The sound quality is superb. The engineer managed to capture not only the energy from the live performance, but the richness of the ensemble backing McRae. Indeed, the musicians backing her are perfect for the material: Jimmy Rowles on piano (who wrote the "Ballad" of Thelonious Monk), Joe Pass on guitar, Chuck Domanico on bass and Chuck Flores on drums. If you love hearing some of the best songs from the Great American Songbook performed by a master this album will delight you. There is a cohesiveness to the album that earns kudos from the production team as well as the performers. Interestingly McRae and her ensemble performed 32 songs the night that this was recorded. One can only speculate as to why a volume 2 wasn't released. Regardless, this is - in my opinion - some of McRae's best live material. Mike Tarrani
Carmen McRae: The Great American Songbook
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