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Carmen McRAE – Betty CARTER – Duets (Live) 1987

Posted in Betty CARTER, Carmen McRAE, JAZZ on December 23, 2010 by whoisthemonk

Carmen McRAE – Betty CARTER – Duets (Live) 1987
Recorded live at The Great American Music Hall,
San Francisco, California on January 30-31 and February 1, 1987.
1996 Issue.


This unusual CD features the great Betty Carter performing live with the great Carmen McRae, both having fun as they share the spotlight. Betty’s voice is higher and sweeter than Carmen’s lower, stronger, and more assertive voice, but together they sound like extensions of each other, almost alteregos, as they interact, engage in delightful patter, and joke and obviously mug with the audience. This is a CD for which one yearns for a video, since these two megastars of jazz are so in sync that it’s sometimes difficult to tell which one is singing in these unusually long tracks.

In all tracks it is the singers themselves who are the focus. Accompaniment is kept to a minimum–at most, just the piano, bass, and/or drum–and frequently McRae and Carter sound as if they are singing a capella. “Stolen Moments (You Belong to Her)” features wonderful harmony and impeccable timing, as both singers hit their notes exactly on cue. “But Beautiful,” slower and more ballad-like, shows both singers alternating the solo line, ending with surprising high notes and perfect harmony. In one of the longest songs, “Am I Blue?” McRae begins with a solo, then turns the mike to Carter halfway through, before they join and swing together for the remainder of this nearly seven-minute track.

One of the best songs on the CD is “Sometimes I’m Happy,” which begins with Carter singing to a bass accompaniment (by Jim Hughart), switching to scat and wild improvisation by McRae, and ending with Carter singing scat. In fact, their ability to sing scat together and alternately is one of the best aspects of this CD. In “Isn’t It Romantic?” these two stars obviously enjoy harmonizing, which they continue with “Sophisticated Lady,” which alternates solos and then combines. The high point of the CD is “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” however. From the beginning, in which they sing together accompanied by a drum (Wynard Harper), then piano (Eric Gunnison), the two have fun alternating scat turns, before the drum solos, and all go wild.

As McRae and Carter exchange patter and interject comments within their songs, they are obviously playing to their audience, which responds audibly on the recording, one of the great advantages of live performances. Bright, fun, and relaxed, this CD shows two of the great ladies of jazz interacting and sharing the spotlight as the audience roars its approval. Don’t miss this one.
By Mary Whipple.
This project is an unusual matchup between two very individual vocalists that generally works. Both Carmen McRae and Betty Carter show a lot of good humor during their duets, cracking occasional jokes and often jamming quite spontaneously. With suitable support from pianist Eric Gunnison, bassist Jim Hughart and drummer Winard Harper along with a very enthusiastic audience at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall, Carter usually takes vocal honors while McRae comes up with the most humorous lines. Some of the ensembles are ragged but this encounter is overall quite successful. The CD reissue adds three previously unreleased selections that feature McRae without Carter. Now if only someone had teamed together Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan for a full album.
By Scott Yanow. AMG.
The Carmen McRae-Betty Carter Duets is a 1987 live album of duets by the American jazz singers Betty Carter and Carmen McRae. Originally released on American Music Hall Records, it was reissued in 1996 by Verve under the title Duets: Live at the Great American Music Hall with three previously unreleased tracks by McRae alone. Tracks 10-12 not included on original LP release.
Carmen McRae, Betty Carter- (Vocals)
Eric Gunnison- (Piano, Electric Piano)
Jim Hughart- (Bass)
Winard Harper- (Drums).
01. What’s New 4:20
02. Stolen Moments 3:36
03. But Beautiful 5:55
04. Am I Blue? 6:45
05. Ballad Medley: Glad To Be Unhappy / Where Or When 5:33
06. Sometimes I’m Happy 7:54
07. Isn’t It Romantic? 2:57
08. Sophisticated Lady 3:34
09. It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) 6:10
10. I Hear Music 2:52
11. Love Dance 8:09
12. That Old Devil Moon 3:48
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