b. Natalie Riemer, New York City, New York, USA. When she was in her late teens and early twenties, Rae studied with Lennie Tristano in New York City. Subsequently, she sang with small groups and big bands, mainly on Long Island, but also in Puerto Rico where she lived for two years. This was followed by a long spell outside music but in 1990 she began singing at weekly workshops, jam sessions and gigs with a group of like-minded musicians, known collectively as the Greater Apple Jazz Ensemble, and which included arranger-bass player Jon Randall, pianist Victor LaGamma and drummer Ed Tierney. In 1997, shortly after the dissolution of GAJE, Rae began working with other musicians, including Loring ‘Burnie’ Burnett and singer-producer Rose Gunter. It was Gunter who persuaded Rae to place on record her vocal skills and this resulted in Rae’s 1999 debut On Wings. On this album she was joined by saxophonist Mike Filice, pianists LaGamma, Mike Capobianco and Chris Clark, guitarist Mick Gaffney, bass player John Ray, drummers Tierney and George Hooks, and saxophonist Jimmy Halperin, also a student of Tristano’s, albeit a generation after Rae’s days with the maestro. When On Wings was released it showed how much the jazz vocal world had missed through not hearing Rae on record earlier than this and Rae, in her seventies, sounded half her age. Especially interesting was a segment of the CD that featured Rae singing on four songs mostly arranged by Halperin and which drew upon their shared debt to their late tutor. Eloquent and imaginative, Rae’s singing style ably demonstrates how thoroughly steeped she is in jazz. Even so, she also happily works in a broader arena, especially in her vocal partnership with singer-guitarist George Murphy, yet even here Rae’s jazz roots are plain to hear.
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