Ms. McRae

SOME YEARS back, I was at the old Catalina Jazz Club on Cahuenga late night, second-set to see Carmen McRae. I always knew I was in the right place if it was midweek and the room was pleasantly full and KKGO DJ, Chuck Niles “Bebop Charlie” would slide in after his show to catch even the tail-end of a set. He was there — trading sly pleasantries before she started her late set. McRae was famous for, well, getting people straight. So the rules were: you never ordered a drink while she was singing (or talking); you didn’t chat during her set or she’d let you know why you shouldn’t. This particular night, someone in the audience wasn’t hip to the dos and don’ts and just kept chattering away as if he were in his living room. McRae stopped mid-verse and let out a string of colorful admonishments and then slid right back to the song without missing a beat. Picked up where she left off. Like it was its own verse. No one dared breathe. This little video clip shows a bit of that in the first few seconds. Carmen McRae held you in her sway in every way.

(for Mom)

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