This live club date (if you're looking for the best of Cole Porter, Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, ignore the silly, inappropriate title) is good, representative Carmen from the 1970s. But she's beginning to reveal some of the uneven timbre, thin spots in her vocal range, over reliance on exaggerated diction that became evident in the latter part of her career. As good as this album is, a better example of Carmen working out with a rhythm section (and there are many such recordings) is "Live at Sugar Hill." (Look hard. She's in better voice on "Sunday," and sings the all-time definitive version of Rodgers and Hart's "It Never Entered My Mind." It's also been reissued as "In Person.")
After Billie Holiday's passing, the two supreme divas in jazz were Ella and Sarah. And if the list were expanded to include a third, it would arguably be Carmen. But unless you've heard her work from the 1950s and 60s, the high regard in which she is held by many listeners may not be immediately apparent based on the evidence of this and other later recordings. She could practically "carry" a rhythm section, or create powerful drama out of mundane material, first arousing us with abrasive indignation, then assuring us with the sheer sweetness of her soothing instrument. The strengths of this 1972 session, on the other hand, are to be found not simply in her commanding vocalizations but in her interaction with the other players. Her presence is liberating, allowing her musicians (including Joe Pass) to be not merely accompanists but fellow creators whose contributions take on the same importance as hers.
No one feels and communicates "time" like Carmen. A pianist herself, she has a little drummer at work in her brain controlling every phrase and note that issues from her lips. Listen to her relaxed phrasing and confident counter-melody while the rhythm section is burning on "I Cried for You." Then compare that with Louis Armstrong's trumpet in the late 20s and early 30s, especially on a classic like "Mahogany Hall Stomp." In the same way that Armstrong towered over all of his peers, Carmen commands the field among female jazz singers. It's not sufficient to listen to cuts like "Day by Day" or "I Only Have Eyes for You" and compliment her on selecting such superb, swinging musicians to back her up. It's because of HER that they're swinging that hard!