Carmen McRae

At Ratso's, Vol. 2

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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan

This is the second half of a previously unreleased Carmen McRae live performance from Ratso's jazz club in Chicago in 1976, and McRae is at her best. The play list for this volume is completely different than that appearing on Vol. 1. Nonetheless, it also is an eclectic offering of songs from a variety of composing sources, including Barry Mann, Marilyn & Alan Bergman, and Jimmy Rowles, to name a few. Composers had to feel very satisfied to have any of their output performed by McRae, as she was a one-of-a-kind advocate of vocal material. She could always make a tune sound better than it should have. Having utmost respect for the lyrics, which she considered the heart and soul of a tune, she caressed, stretched, phrased them in such a way as to make their story as appealing as humanly possible. Excellent tracks among a full set of excellent tracks include "Like a Lover," and upbeat versions of "You Know Who You Are" and "Sunday." The tempo is one of the few differences between the two volumes. More rapid cadence pieces are prevalent on this volume than the first. McRae viewed herself as a comedienne of sorts, and there's some of that trying-to-be-funny material on this CD. Fortunately, she didn't have to rely on her comic ability to hold an audience in her hand. But she was having fun. Her trio of Marshall Otwell, Ed Bennett, and Joey Baron are superlatively on the same page throughout the set. If any of them weren't, they didn't last very long. McRae could be rather stern with her sidemen. Like Vol. 1, the sound is excellent, and like Vol. 1, this CD is essential Carmen McRae.

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