The Artistry of… series is sponsored by the Alzheimer Society Music Project.

The influence was all about Billie Holiday. Early contact with the singer and those who worked around and with her solidified the influence. The fine tuning for McRea’s personal style came from years she spent in Chicago playing piano and singing in clubs. In her own words from the early 1950s about how her time in Chicago developed her, she said it “gave me whatever it is that I have now. That’s the most prominent schooling I ever had.” True to the strength that comes from immigration, McRae’s parents were immigrants to the U.S. from Jamaica.

An iconic voice, her music-making defined vocal jazz. Her artistry always enhanced and flavoured when she worked on projects with others, and the names of those she worked with are pillars and classic greats, including Tjader, Brubeck, Shearing, Noel Coward, Sammy Davis Jr., and Armstrong. Jazz in America is built on the artistry of the diversity of its players, and McRae was just one of many who spiced America’s great musical lifeblood contribution to the world.