Carmen McRae

Live at Midem on January 22, 1979

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Although Carmen McRae is given top billing on this Musidisc CD, the music actually features a number of artists, excerpted from a larger double-LP set issued by Personal Choice circa 1980, a label co-founded by vocalist Joe Williams and manager/former bassist John Levy. Claude Bolling leads a European big band through some swinging instrumentals, while also backing McRae effectively for ballad features like "Body and Soul" and "'Tis Autumn," along with a perky "Bye Bye Blackbird," though her vocals are plagued with reverb caused by poor engineering. She also takes a rare opportunity to accompany herself at the piano for a low-key, conversational take of "A Beautiful Friendship," where the reverb problem magically disappears. Thad Jones joins Bolling's big band to play his sassy blues "Back Bone." Bolling manages to catch the flavor of Ellington playing the introduction to the maestro's "Rockin' in Rhythm." Although Joe Williams is only featured on a single number, "Them There Eyes," he makes the most of it singing a duet with McRae and Bolling's rhythm section.

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