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Carmen McRae - Live
Warner Vision/Warner Vision . R4 . COLOR . 81 mins . E . PAL


By the time jazz singer Carmen McRae gave this 1996 concert in Japan she was 64 and the suppleness of her voice had largely left her. She was a big woman - but while she bulked up, the voice went somewhere else...

She was always a singer with a rough, almost raucous edge. And the suppleness was needed to offset the intrinsic toughness of her delivery.

In this concert she is a bit on-edge, and nervously fluffs the opening-line of the first number, That Old Black Magic. Although she regains her assurance, she never seems fully relaxed. And without that earlier suppleness of her voice, she seems to mainly just speak the lyrics, with melody forgotten.

Carmen McRae in her heyday was numbered in the top ten of jazz vocalists, somewhere below the top quartet of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Anita O'Day. Afficianados will welcome this disc - video records of this quality of any major jazz performer are rare - but the rest of us would do better to wait for records of her peak era, in the 1950s and 1960s.


The video documentation of her concert is excellent, with clear full screen image and accurate rendering of colour. Camerawork is impressive; there's no gimmickry here, just an attempt to give a cohesive, close-up view of an artist at work.

And the image is matched by sound. This is unprocessed two-channel stereo, which delivers a crystalline audio track of warm atmosphere with no perceptible noise or distortion.

Extras offer web access, textual notes on artists and a thumbnail sketch of each song in the program - composer, when composed, setting and so forth.

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  •   And I quote...
    "In 1986 jazz vocalist Carmen McRae was an imposing figure - but while she bulked up, the voice went somewhere else..."
    - Anthony Clarke
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