Carmen McRae was a guest on Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz in 1985 and ended up being one of the most memorable singers to appear on the series. While she was known to have a been a better-than-average pianist, she rarely recorded accompanying herself, though McPartland, an old friend, succeeded in encouraging her to sing and play solo on several numbers, including infrequently heard ballads such as Teddy Wilson's "It's the Little Things Which Mean a Lot," Irene Kitchings' (Teddy Wilson's first wife) "I'm Pulling Through," and Duke Ellington's "I Never Felt This Way Before." McRae explains to McPartland how hard it is to play piano and sing simultaneously following her solo take of "I Hadn't Anyone 'Til You" and jokes during the song, "I wonder why I picked this song?," adding the humorous closing tag line, "I'm gonna get out of this real quick." The two piano duets, "As Time Goes By" and the improvised "Carmen's Blues," are a little bit tentative simply because McRae was not used to playing piano with a partner, but the two musicians clearly enjoy themselves so it doesn't distract from either track. McPartland, of course, is a consummate accompanist for McRae's vocals during a moving "I Guess I'll Hang My Tears out to Dry" (with the pianist sitting out the opening verse) and a delightful romp through "Old Devil Moon." McRae is also very moved by McPartland's lovely, improvised "Theme for Carmen" and her delicate interpretation of "Embraceable You." The interview segments are every bit as lively and entertaining as the music, so this is a CD that fans of Carmen McRae should purchase without hesitation.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden