Red and Blue

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An excellent but obscure singer who played around Manhattan in the mid- to late 1990s, Red (whose real name is Nora McCarthy) showed a great deal of promise on her debut album, Red and Blue. This little-known CD, which had limited distribution, favored a sultry, noir-ish ambiance that combined the influence of Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and Abbey Lincoln with elements of the type of cool singing that defined Chris Connor and Julie London in the 1950s. Nonetheless, Red and Blue has an impressionistic quality that underscores Red's awareness of post-bop developments of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Although Red's interpretive powers serve her well on Mel Torme's "Born to Be Blue," her own compositions dominate the album, and she shows how thoughtful a lyricist she can be on originals ranging from the poignant "Billie" (an ode to Holiday) to the seductive "Bedroom Eyes" and the poetic, somewhat Dianne Reeves-ish "Isis." One hoped that future Red releases would bring the talented singer the larger audience she deserved.