Carmen McRae met the great Billie Holiday when she was just 17 years old, and Holiday recorded in 1939 a tune she composed, “Dream of Life.” It was love at first sight for McRae. “If Billie Holiday had never existed, I probably wouldn’t have, either,” McRae told The New York Times years later. That friendship will be highlighted Saturday when the Swing Shift Jazz Orchestra, featuring nationally acclaimed vocalist Clairdee (pictured), pays tribute to the women with Billie Holiday and Carmen McRae: A Beautiful Friendship. The friendship between the two remarkably talented women ran so deep that McRae would sing her mentor’s work along with hers 20 years after Holiday’s death “because she was the greatest influence in my life so far as singing was concerned.” It was a friendship that Clairdee finds special. “I am honored to pay homage to the enduring legacy and friendship of two great vocal innovators of American popular song,” the San Francisco-based singer tells Eugene Weekly. “My admiration for both singers lies in their exquisite taste in repertoire and their supreme ability to interpret lyrics.”
The Swing Shift Jazz Orchestra, with guest vocalist Clairdee, presents Billie Holiday and Carmen McRae: A Beautiful Friendship at 7:30 pm Saturday, March 4, at Wildish Community Theater, 630 Main Street, Springfield. Tickets are $10-20.