Carmen McRae: Bye Bye Blackbird
Bye Bye Blackbird
Carmen McRae (vocals)
Birds Of A Feather (Decca 314 589 515)
Fred Kelin, Don Corrado, Dick Berg, Tony Miranda (french horns), Don Abney (piano), Mundell Lowe (guitar), Aaron Bell (bass), Ted Sommer (drums).
Composed by Mort Dixon & Ray Henderson; arranged by Ralph Burns.
Recorded: New York, August 4, 1958
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
While the album's concept is a little hokey, Birds Of A Feather remains one of Carmen McRae's finest albums. Paired with Ralph Burns, who leads a splendid group featuring Marky Markowitz on trumpet and Ben Webster on tenor (listed as "A Tenorman" due to contract restrictions), Carmen sings songs about a dozen of our feathered friends. For many years, the original LP was a rara avis itself, as copies were hard to find, and the ones that could be bought were badly worn. A limited edition CD reissue came out a few years back; it's now out of print, but the entire album is still available for download.
"Bye Bye, Blackbird"'s popularity was boosted by Miles Davis' 1955 recording, and here Carmen, Marky and Ben all get a chance to solo on its changes. Burns gets a rich sound mixing the french horns with Marky's trumpet and Ben's tenor before Carmen comes in with the melody, mixing sassiness and wistfulness. Marky plays in a Harmon mute which emphasizes his exquisite lines, and then Ben saunters in with a lazy statement played way behind the beat and with a little growl at the end. Carmen comes in scatting, but then goes back to the words for a brilliant variation on the melody. She takes great chances with the rhythm, and when she gets to the last line, she quotes what Miles played at the same spot in his recording. Carmen scats over the band vamp as the track fades out.
Reviewer: Thomas Cunniffe