Carmen McRae

Portrait of Carmen

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Portrait of Carmen doesn't so much update the great Carmen McRae's sound and sensibility as it reflects a world that's finally caught up to her way of thinking, capitalizing on the irony and sophistication so long essential to her music to create a record that is both fiercely individual and universally accessible. McRae inhabits songs like "I'm Always Drunk in San Francisco," "My Very Own Person," and "Boy, Do I Have a Surprise for You" with absolute authority -- hers is the voice of an African-American woman poised on the cusp of a new era , and she seizes the moment with some of the most soulful performances of her career. Arrangers Benny Carter, Shorty Rogers, and Oliver Nelson are vital to the album's success, masterminding a series of vibrant settings firmly rooted in the sonics of post-Sgt. Pepper's pop but retaining all the formal elegance and ingenuity of jazz. The title's no afterthought -- Portrait of Carmen captures her brilliance for posterity.

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