BLACK SOUNDING WHITE AND VICE/VERSA…Carmen McRae: Something Wonderful, Barbara Dane: Livin’ With The Blues

Post bebop and pre rock, what was a singer to do? Well, the major options were either the blues or show tunes. Here are two ladies of their times that deliver some exciting sounds within these limited choices.

One of the few truly original vocalists, Carmen McRae made her name as one of the last of the verifiable bop vocalists, mixing a sardonic swing with deep emotion. This single cd contains the entire Something Wonderful lp from 1962 that has her with an orchestra arranged and conducted by Buddy Bregman. The format is a collection of medleys from shows that serve as salutes to the likes of Ethel Merman, Mary Martin, Ella Logan and Gertrude Lawrence. McRae’s  delivery sounds a tad white washed than what you might be more accustomed to, and for the most part the music comes off as a Reader’s Digest version of show tunes; nothing is really taken in depth after the surface of the medley has been scratched. That deeper quality comes with the bonus tracks that have her with Marty Paich’s band and a supporting team from the  TV Show “Jazz Casual.” Here, McRae sounds like she means it on “So Long” and “Baby, Baby.” Her readings of “If You Never Fall In Love With Me” and “Trouble Is A Man” have McRae’s heart on her sleeve, and make you beg for more.

Barbara Dane had quite a varied career, putting out material from gospel to folk, but her blues albums here on this single disc will surprise you. She sounds amazingly comfortable in the genre; of course, having Earl “Fatha” Hines’ orchestra with Benny Carter, Plas Johnson, Leroy Vinnegar and Shelly Manne sure doesn’t hurt! She reaches for all she’s got, and she’s got plenty, on takes of “How Long, How Long Blues” and “Mecca Flat Blues” that would even impress Big Joe Turner. When she teams up with Kenny Whitson’s Quartet in 1960, she sounds like she grew up during a church revival on believable takes on “This Little Light of Mine” “The Hammer Song” and “I’m On My Way.” Get me to the church on time! This disc is a pleasant surprise-check it out!

Fresh Sound Records

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