Carmen McRae

Live at Bubba's

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On this CD, Carmen McRae is featured in a live set recorded in 1981 at Bubba's, a Ft. Lauderdale nightclub. Accompanied by a very compatible trio, including Marshall Otwell (her regular pianist of the time), bassist Jim Andron, and drummer Mark Pulice, McRae is in good form as she mixes timeless standards and a few pop songs of the day. Her vocals are confident and seem effortless, revisiting old friends such as "That Old Black Magic," a Latin-flavored "I Concentrate on You," a rapid-fire "Thou Swell," a miniature "If I Were a Bell," and an extended interpretation of the tender ballad "My Foolish Heart." Among the newer songs, McRae savors "I Just Can't Wait to See You" (a ballad especially written for her by Mark Franklin) and captures the bittersweet air of "Send in the Clowns" rather well though the arrangement is a bit over dramatic; however, Michael Franks' lightweight "Underneath the Apple Tree" doesn't stand up to the rest of the songs at all. The sound is excellent, with a respectfully quiet audience. Two things are a bit frustrating about this CD, typical problems present on many Who's Who in Jazz releases: there are no liner notes or credits for the musicians, and many of the tracks sound as if they were recorded at the close of individual sets, disrupting the continuity and making one wonder if it was recorded over the course of several evenings rather than just one. In any case, fans of McRae will want to pick this up.

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