music reviews
This Month's Featured Equipment Reviews
ZenWave Cables and SurgeX ZenWave Edition Review
REDGUM BLACK RGi35ENR Integrated Amplifier Review
Linear Tube Audio MicroZOTL 2.0 Headphone Amp & Preamp Review
iFi Micro iUSB 3.0 & Gemini USB Cable Reviews
Marantz M-CR611 Network CD Receiver Review
10 Most Recent Music Disc Reviews:
Latest AV News
Music Software Forum Topics:
Most Popular Music Disc Reviews
Past Music Software News
Carmen McRae - At Ratso's: Volumes 1 & 2 Print E-mail
Wednesday, 01 May 2002
ImageHitchcock Media
Performance: 7
Sound: 7
released: 2002

Carmen McRae was not a particularly distinctive artist, nor was she one of our best-loved jazz singers, but she was always consistently good, and these two live CDs capture her at her best.

Recorded at a club in Chicago, “At Ratso’s” reveals McRae’s eclectic song selection abilities, which have always been an interpreter’s best friend. Volume 1 opens with the one-two punch of a James Taylor work first, followed by a Stevie Wonder song, which – back in 1974 when these two dates were recorded – would have amounted to two adventurous choices.
In fact, McRae had her ear specifically tuned to the goings on in pop radio at that time, as “For Once In My Life” and “All By Myself” are also given jazz treatments here. Her take on Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself” is especially effective, since she wisely removed some of the originator’s unnecessary excess drama, and changed it into a much quieter meditation on loneliness. Another pop-associated tune, “Just A Little Lovin’,” neatly melds sunshine pop with jazz for a memorably melodic delight in McRae’s hands.

But it’s standards, such as the ones that pre-date the modern rock era, which have always been the bread and butter for jazz vocalists, and McRae certainly did not abandon such selections on these dates. Volume 1 includes an extended (12:49) Duke Ellington medley, and she also swings through “Them There Eyes” and settles into “My Old Flame.” Then there are what can best be described as wild cards, such as the pseudo-country leanings of “Ballad Of Thelonius Monk,” which is a song about as unpredictable as that musician was.

McRae would have never been able to stretch out into so many different musical directions -- as she’s allowed to do here -- without an elastic group of musicians, such as her trio. Ed Bennett is solid on bass, as is Joey Baron at the drums, and Marshall Otwell’s piano work also shines, especially during his colorful solos on “Them There Eyes.”

When you consider that co-producer Jim Brown was an admitted novice -- who was otherwise fixing sound systems when he lucked into tracking these live dates – the sound here is quite good. Except for a few occasions when the piano slightly overpowers McRae’s voice, the balance is mostly good. And of course, capturing the spontaneity of a performance should always be goal number one when recording a live show -- these two discs do just that.

Whereas some artists view live shows as a chore, Carmen McRae thrived on interaction with her audience. Her in-between asides with this crowed reveal just how much everyone in the room was on the same wavelength. Such emotional frequency is something no recording studio will ever capture.

“At Ratso’s” doesn’t show us anything we didn’t already know about Carmen McRae, but if you’re one who is already on McRae’s joyfully loose wavelength, these albums will give you the best possible way to experience this singer -- live and in her element.

Like this article? Bookmark and share with any of the sites below.
Digg!Reddit!!Google!StumbleUpon!Yahoo!Free social bookmarking plugins and extensions for Joomla! websites!

  home theater news  |  equipment reviews 
  blu-ray reviews  |  dvd  |  theatrical reviews  
  music download reviews  |  music disc reviews
  contact  |  about-us  |  careers   |  brands 
  RSS   |  AVRev Forums
  front page  |  virtual tours  |  dealer locator
  how to features  |   lifestyle & design articles
  Want Your Home Theater Featured on MHT?
   CE Partners: HDD  |  HDF  |  VGT  |  SD  |  DVD
  Advertise with Us | Specs | Disclaimer | Sponsors
  privacy policy | cookie policy | terms of use
  909 N. Sepulveda Blvd. El Segundo, CA 90245
  Ads: 310.280.4476 | Contact Us
  Content: 310.280.4575 | Mike Flacy