August 5, 2021

The Harlem Diva – The FreeThinker

Carmen McRae

At seventeen, the idol of a black Harlem girl during the Roaring Twenties It could only be Billie Holiday, who was about eight years older, but it didn’t matter. To sing, you had to sing like her or almost like her, in any case.
Likewise, in the 1940s, in that generous setting that began at Minton’s Playhouse and ended in Staten Island, Carmen McRae began to give her lungs to the world. Between the music of the Pops and from Duke, which filled her house and overflowed even through the windows, Carmen Mercedes managed to worship the Lady Day and sing, in addition to studying piano.
At the beginning, Carmencita was one of the “chorus girls” and even a working secretary, always attached to the keys, even if they were from the typewriter. Thus, drumming hard, he began to play with Benny Carter’s band. Then would come the time of Milt Gabler and twelve – no less – LPs full of that piano sometimes accurately typed by Olympia, the perfect secretary, and sometimes driven from the voice, which was always behind the beat. That would be his seal.

Carmen McRae on her wedding day to bassist Charles “Ike” Isaacs.

For fifty years he sang throughout his country, until from coast to coast he seemed like a boy. Then he went to the Monterrey Festival and, year yes, year no, he spent three decades giving away Lover Man, Good Morning Heartache and a ton of other songs to an audience that would never tire of it. They asked her to be by her side from Dave Brubeck to Cal Tjader to George Shearing and she said yes. She always said yes, that’s why she married Kenny Clarke first and then his bass player, Charles Ike Isaacs.
At death, Carmencita gave her little ball, that is why she continued to smoke as a convict and, how could it be otherwise, she contracted emphysema that ended her in addition to forcing her to retire in 1991. She died in 1994 due to respiratory complications. From her we still have that implacable swing.