Chris Connor: The Early Years Singles & Albums 1952-56

The singer's early work is collected on three CDs and includes All About Ronnie, the epitome of cool, smart disillusion

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Chris Connor made her singing debut during the last hurrah of the post-war big band era. A well-schooled musician who had studied the clarinet for several years, she started working around the Kansas City area in the late 40s, occasionally accompanied by Bob Brookmeyer on piano.

Relocating to NYC, she joined Claude Thornhill’s orchestra as part of his four-part vocal group the Snowflakes, ultimately stepping out from the quartet to sing solo. She also worked with Jerry Wald, and June Christy heard her when the band was broadcasting from the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans. Thoroughly impressed she recommended Chris to Stan Kenton.

Her first studio recording with Kenton in April 1953 was a forgettable novelty titled And The Bull Walked Around Olay. Things changed dramatically three months later with Joe Greene’s sophisticated All About Ronnie, which along with June Christy’s Something Cool became a 50s cool-school classic. The lyric reflects an air of smart disillusionment perfectly in keeping with her intimate delivery, crystal-clear diction and delicate vibrato. It became her signature song which she returned to many times and it led to a contract with Bethlehem Records. Her small group dates with the label feature some of her very finest work from the period as she confidently embraces the many moods of these selections with sympathetic accompanists. I’ve had this material in my collection for years and regularly return to it.

Her August 1954 trio date revisits All About Ronnie together with superior standards you don’t hear every day like What Is There To Say and Why Shouldn’t I. She even found the charm in Come back To Sorrento which in the wrong hands can often sound overwrought. Ellis Larkins’ subtly understated piano impresses here just as he did on a duo date with Ella Fitzgerald four months earlier. Expanding to a quartet featuring Ronnie Odrich (flute and clarinet) and Don Burns (accordion), both of whom were making their recording debut, she explores another set of torch songs including Stella By Starlight and Goodbye, handling the tricky Lush Life along the way with husky-voiced aplomb.

The small group and Stan Kenton titles have been regularly reissued but the Jerry Wald and some of the 1956 tracks are rare, making their release an essential addition to her discography.

Discography
CD1: (1) You’re The Cream In My Coffee; Raisins And Almonds; (2) Come Rain Or Come Shine; Sorta Kinda; Wish You Were Here; (3) And The Bull Walked Around Olay; Jeepers Creepers; If I Should Lose You; All About Ronnie; I Get A Kick Out Of You; (4) Blue Silhouette; The Miser’s Serenade; Ask Me; Chiquita From Chi-Haw-Haw-Wah; (5) I Hear Music; What Is There To Say; Come Back To Sorrento; Why Shouldn’t I; Lullaby Of Birdland; Try A Little Tenderness; All About Ronnie; Spring Is Here; (6) Lush Life; A Cottage For Sale; How Long Has This Been Going On; Gone With The Wind (72.09)
CD2: Out Of This World; Goodbye; Stella By Starlight; He’s Coming Home; (7) Blame It On My Youth; It’s Right With Me; Someone To Watch Over Me; Trouble Is A Man; All This And Heaven Too; The Thrill Is Gone; I Concentrate On You; All Dressed Up With A Broken Heart; From This Moment On; Ridin’ High; Everything I Love; Indian Summer; A Good Man Is A Seldom Thing; Don’t Wait Up For Me; Fly Me To The Moon; (8) Go ’Way From My Window; Past The Age Of Innocence; I Miss You So; My Heart Is So Full For You; (9) I Get A Kick Out Of You; (10) Something To Live For: (11) Way Out There (72.14)
CD3: Get Out Of Town; (9) Where Are You; (11) Anything Goes; (10) When The Wind Was Green; He Was Too Good To Me; (11) You Make Me Feel So Young; (9) Ev’rytime; (10) My April Heart; Almost Like Being In Love; (12) High On A Windy Hill; Round About; Angel Eyes; You Stepped Out Of A Dream; Why Can’t I; Suddenly It’s Spring; About The Blues; Oh! You Crazy Moon; But Not For me; I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry; I Wonder What Became Of Me; Thursday’s Child (73.02)
Connor (v) with: (1) Jerry Wald orchestra. NYC, 17 April 1952. (2) Claude Thornhill orchestra. NYC, October 1952. (3) Stan Kenton orchestra. Los Angeles & Chicago 1953. (4) Sy Oliver orchestra. NYC, December 1953. (5) Ellis Larkins trio. NYC, August 1954. (6) Vinnie Burke quartet. NYC, August 1954. (7) JJ Johnson, Kai Winding (tb); Herbie Mann (f); Ralph Sharon (p); Joe Puma (elg); Milt Hinton (b); Osie Johnson (d). NYC, April 1955.  (8) Ray Ellis orcheatra. NYC, February 1956. (9) Ralph Burns orchestra. NYC, February 1956. (10) Ralph Burns orchestra. NYC, January 1956. (11) Ralph Burns orchestra. NYC, June 1956. (12) Ralph Burns orchestra. NYC, August 1956.
Acrobat Music ACTRCD 9115