Carmen McRae -- vocals; Tom Garvin -- piano, Fender Rhodes electric piano; Paul West -- bass; Mickey Roker -- drums
A consummate ballad interpreter and inveterate swinger with a daring improvisational streak, Carmen McRae ranked with the very best in the history of vocal jazz. She opens her Central Park appearance in the Wollman Ampitheater with a blazing bop flavored rendition of "Linger Awhile," an old Tin Pan Alley nugget original recorded by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra in 1923 and modernized by Sarah Vaughan in a 1956 version. She and longtime accompanist Tom Garvin next settle into a gorgeous duet rendition of the melancholy lament "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most," which shows McRae at the height of her interpretive powers as she sings: "Spring this year has got me feeling like a horse that's never left the post. I lie in my room staring up at the ceiling...spring can really hang you up the most." Her New York rhythm tandem of bassist Paul West and drummer Mickey Roker join in on this tune halfway through then they set a loping pace on McRae's sultry rendition of Bronislaw Kaper's "On Green Dolphin Street."
From that jazz standard to something more modern, Carmen and company next tackle the bouyant Barry Mann-Cynthia Weil tune "Just a LIttle Lovin'," the title track from McRae's 1970 Atlantic album. She then delivers a poignant version of the ballad "Inside a Silent Tear" by Blossom Dearie, the unique singer-pianist-composer who was a ubiquitous and beloved figure on New York's supper club scene during the 1960s and 1970s. Another Dearie tune, the jaunty and clever "Hey John," was inspired by the composer's unexpected encounter in a London recording studio with former Beatle John Lennon.
Carmen's interpretation of the oft-recorded standard "All the Things You Are" opens with a sparse bass-voice dialogue before the piece opens up into a swinging tour de force paced by Roker's insistent ride cymbal work. After leaving the stage to the strains of John Coltrane's chops-busting anthem, "Giant Steps," she returns for an encore of "What a Little Moonlight Can Do," a coy number associated with McRae's favorite singer, Billie Holiday, who recorded the tune with the Teddy Wilson Orchestra in 1935. Carmen's burning uptempo version is fueled by Roker's energized brushwork and features a particularly brilliant piano solo by Garvin. Following that gem, the regal jazz singer once again leaves the stage to the strains of "Giant Steps," ending her appearance at the 1973 Newport Jazz Festival in New York.