Carmen McRae has never been particularly well served by record labels. Even though she was one of the undisputed giants of the jazz world, she recorded for a wide variety of labels over her career, which means there are a lot of reissues and compilations to sort through when pondering a McRae purchase. Fuel 2000's An Introduction to Carmen McRae doesn't make things easy for consumers, as it lacks much information on the cover. The liner notes shed some light on the contents; tracks come from a mixed bag of sources and include intimate trio recordings from early-'80s live sets, songs taken from a 1982 Montreux concert, big-band sessions from the late '70s, a few tracks from the early '60s, and some fine voice and piano solo tracks McRae cut near the end of her career in 1989. Despite the seemingly random selections and the lack of concrete documentation, the disc is a pleasure mainly because McRae could sing the directions for assembling a shelving unit and make it sound like the most heart-wrenching (or joyous) thing ever. It is certainly not a collection for fans delving into Carmen McRae's career for the first time and it will surely drive collectors crazy, but the collection succeeds despite itself thanks to the high quality of her performances.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra