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She began studying piano when she was eight, and the music of jazz greats such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington filled her home.When she was just 17 years old she met singer Billie Holiday.
The latter two albums were part of a notable eight-year relationship with Concord Jazz.
In her late teens and early twenties, Mc Rae played piano at a New York City club called Minton's Playhouse, Harlem's most famous jazz club, sang as a chorus girl, and worked as a secretary.
It was at Minton's where she met trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, bassist Oscar Pettiford, and drummer Kenny Clarke, had her first important job as a pianist with Benny Carter's big band (1944), worked with Count Basie (1944) and under the name "Carmen Clarke" (having married Kenny Clarke) made her first recording as pianist with the Mercer Ellington Band (1946–47).
on the song "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone" (S. Stept) in New York City at the RCA Studios, for Connick's debut album, 20.
She withdrew from public performance in May 1991 after an episode of respiratory failure only hours after she completed an engagement at the Blue Note jazz club in New York.