Home » Musicians » Carmen McRae

Carmen McRae

Carmen McRae is an NEA Jazz Master

Considered by jazz aficionados to be among the top ten female vocalists of all time, Carmen McRae's distinctive behind-the-beat phrasing, impeccable vocal control, and witty, sometimes acerbic way of conveying a lyric are what set her apart as a singularly great singer. She considered jazz great Billie Holiday to be a musical mentor. But this Queen of Cool had her own sound and style; including an amazing ability to scat. The versatile McRae could swing hard when it was called for; next she could draw out a ballad, savoring each note and syllable without losing audience attention, she was in a class by herself.

McRae was fortunate enough to have been raised by a family prosperous enough to afford a piano and lessons. Early on she expressed a strong interest in an acting career. By age twenty, her interest in music had taken over and she began singing as well as playing the piano. Even at a young age, she was a woman with something to say and throughout her life was recognized not only for her musical talents but for her immense love for verbal expression through musical lyrics.

Her first break was getting hired as an intermission pianist at Harlem's world-famous Minton's Playhouse, a jazz club. She became acquainted with many of the top modern jazz musicians of the time. An important influence was songwriter Irene Wilson, who introduced her to Billie Holiday. Wilson continued to encourage McRae to write music; one of McRae's first attempts at songwriting, “Dream of Life,” was recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939.

Read more

Tags

Wayne Powers
voice / vocals
Georgia Mancio
voice / vocals
Bianca Pittoors
voice / vocals
Dina Blade
voice / vocals
Cathy DeWitt
voice / vocals
David Thorne Scott
voice / vocals
Todd Gordon
voice / vocals
Shirley Crabbe
voice / vocals
Jaana Narsipur
voice / vocals
Margeaux Lampley
voice / vocals
Karen Lyu
voice / vocals
Callie Cardamon
voice / vocals
Heather Bambrick
voice / vocals
Teri Roiger
voice / vocals
Shawnn Monteiro
voice / vocals
Michelle Lordi
voice / vocals
Gabrielle Stravelli
voice / vocals
Pepa Niebla
voice / vocals
Niebla
voice / vocals
Lizzie Thomas
voice / vocals
Halley Elwell
voice / vocals
Laura Karst
voice / vocals
Laura Marks
voice / vocals
Susan Tobocman
voice / vocals
Kaylene Peoples
voice / vocals
Cemre Necefbas
voice / vocals
Coniece Washington
voice / vocals
FUAT TUAÇ
voice / vocals
Jean Lenke
voice / vocals
Lauren Bush
voice / vocals
Lisa Yves
voice / vocals
Gretje Angell
voice / vocals
Kristen Lee Sergeant
voice / vocals
Deelee Dube
voice / vocals
Noa Levy
voice / vocals
Maria Schafer
voice / vocals
Carmen Gloria Pérez
voice / vocals
Angela Verbrugge
voice / vocals
Susanna Aleksandra
voice / vocals
Angela O'Neill
voice / vocals
Karina Corradini
voice / vocals
Karina
voice / vocals
Song Dynasty
band/orchestra
Jamile
voice / vocals
Zardis
voice / vocals
Gemma Sherry
voice / vocals
Louise Alexandra
voice / vocals
Sandra Jean Cummings
voice / vocals
Irini Konstantinidi
voice / vocals
Karuna Shinsho
voice / vocals
Heather Soles
voice / vocals
Alli Bean
voice / vocals

Photos

Albums

Carmen McRae: Live at...

Fresh Sound Records
2008

buy

Take Five / Dat Dere

Line Records
2004

buy

The Diva Series

Line Records
2003

buy

Vocal Jazz

Line Records
2001

buy

Something Wonderful

Collectables
2001

buy

Videos

Similar

Sarah Vaughan
voice / vocals
Ella Fitzgerald
voice / vocals
Abbey Lincoln
voice / vocals
Dinah Washington
voice / vocals
Billy Eckstine
voice / vocals
Etta Jones
voice / vocals
Nancy Wilson
voice / vocals
Anita O'Day
voice / vocals
Betty Carter
voice / vocals
Nnenna Freelon
voice / vocals
Carol Sloane
voice / vocals
Ernestine Anderson
voice / vocals

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.