Carmen McRae “I’m Always Drunk In San Francisco” (Atlantic 2485-B, 1968)
Always glamorous with a slightly gutsy glide to her voice, Carmen McRae blurred the lines of what it meant to be a Jazz vocalist in a very Queer way. Today would have been her 95th Birthday, but she left behind a rather epic catalog of song interpretation that tends to get overshadowed, along with her in totality, in the 20+ years since her death.
She never shied away from interpreting then current pop music unlike some more jazz purist vocalists in her field. Her knack for intepretation made each and every effort her own, and a lot of the time less jarring than some interpretations by her contemporaries (yes, I’m calling Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan out). Although one of many rich interpretations of this love note to San Francisco’s magic has been done with aplomb by others, McRae’s interpretation, recorded in her mid 40’s, brings a lovely jaundiced smile to the proceedings, and is one of my favorite looks at the big city closest to my hometown.