Carmen McRae is regarded by many jazz critics as one of—and some say the—most influential singers in jazz history. McRae was born in Harlem and began studying piano when she was eight years old. When she was 17, she met Billie Holiday, who became the singer’s inspiration. In her teens, McRae played piano at Minton’s Playhouse, one of Harlem’s most famous jazz clubs, and met Dizzy Gillespie. In the 40s, she worked with Count Basie and recorded with Mercer Ellington’s band. In her career which spanned more than five decades, McRae performed with a who’s who roster of jazz musicians, among them Dave Brubeck and George Shearing. She was a popular performer at jazz festivals around the world and performed regularly in New York at the Blue Note well into the 1980s. McRae died in 1994 at the age of 74. Sandra Dudley is assistant professor of Commercial Voice at Belmont University. Dudley has recorded five nationally recognized jazz albums and has been featured performer with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, the Tennessee Jazz Orchestra, the Jazz Orchestra of the Delta and the Nashville and Memphis Symphonies. This year's series is presented with support from Caterpillar Financial Services, Peter and Anne Neff, and the Frist Foundation.
April 27, 2014