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Carmen Mcrae: Dream of Life

Where has this beautiful date been? Recorded in 1989, it features McRae with Cologne’s WDR Big Band and charts by John Clayton. All told, it is one of McRae’s best albums. The singer is in swinging form-sassy, salty, bittersweet, and very rhythmic. Monk’s “In Walked Bud” (with lyrics by Jon Hendricks) opens with a blast of brass and McRae digging into the melody. On “Sunday” the singer freely phrases the melody over a two-beat rhythm and later delivers lots of rhythmic scat. “For All We Know” is tender but not mushy; the band spreads a lush carpet behind the singer.

Instrumental soloists pop up throughout the performances: Roy Hargrove and the late Jon Eardley on trumpet, Dave Horler on trombone (great romantic intro on the title track), Scott Colley on bass, et. al. The arrangements, excellent all the way, reflect the kind of swinging charts Clayton soaked up as a bassist in the Basie band.

An added treat is “You’re a Weaver of Dreams,” on which McRae plays the piano, her intervals and rhythms as wry and angular as Monk’s.

Originally Published