McRae Expresses Monk

And just when I thought Thelonious Monk’s compositions are impossible to sing, Carmen McRae proves me wrong on Carmen Sings Monk. With her big, clear, pitch-perfect vocals, she brilliantly captures Monk’s up-tempo “Get It Straight,” “It’s Over Now,” “You Know Who” and “Listen to Monk” as well as his smooth “Dear Ruby,” “Monkery’s the Blues,” “Little Butterfly” and “’Round Midnight.” And Lord, can she scat? Listen to the live version of “Suddenly”—accompanied by Monk’s protégé tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse—and find out because I am breathtakingly speechless with the way she maneuvers her wordless delivery around Monk’s idiosyncratic chords. The album is a showcase of McRae’s incandescent compassion to Monk’s singular creativeness.

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