Not only is "Free Spirits" one of my favorite albums by Chris Connor, but it is also one of her most upbeat and was one of her final projects with Atlantic. It opens with the Duke Ellington's explosive "Jump For Joy," where Chris' voice is strong, joyful and commanding. On track #2 "Night Bird," the mood changes and becomes more haunting and mysterious with great musical solos done by the musicians, especially Irvin Markowitz on the trumpet. "Milano" is a smooth, easy going tune that demonstrates Chris' ability to create a very relaxed mood, along with the delightful trumpet solo by Clark Terry. Track#4 "Opportunity, Please Knock" is seductive, yet playful, with the extra added touch of Joe Newman on trumpet. This is followed by "Daydream" an Ellington,/LaTouch/Strayhorn collaboration that takes you to that hazy, haunting place with Ben Tucker's bass behind Chris every step of the way.
On "Things Are Swinging," one of my personal favorites, you'd be hard pressed not to tap your feet and snap your fingers because it is just that type of song. Chris sings the lyrics with such crisp, clear elocution making it somewhat hypnotic, and of course with Ronnie Ball's great piano solo, albeit too short. "Kansas City" a Leiber/Stoller collaboration fits right into the pace and groove of the album. "Lonely Woman" is one of the finer ballards on this album with Chris' slight trace of vibrato complemented by the fine musicians: Phil Woods and Oliver Nelson doubling on clarinet, Sol Schlinger doubles on bass clarinet, along with George Duvivier on bass and Ed Shaughnessy on drums. "Im Gonna Go Fishin'" is a Peggy Lee favorite of mine and Chris certainly does the tune justice with her succint, melodic phrasing accompanied by Phil Woods (alto sax), Oliver Nelson (tenor sax), Sol Schlinger (baritone sax), Joe Newman, Clark Terry (trumpets), Ronnie Ball (piano), Ben Tucker (bass) and Dave Bailey (drums). Miss Connor's tribute to Billie Holiday on "God Bless the Child" provides a simpler, less stylized approach, however her ability to use her dynamics clearly carries the mood and hits the mark. The final cut, "Free Spirits," another favorite of mine, has a nice upbeat tempo and is perfect for Chris' voice and for the close of such a wonderful album.
Listening to this Cd is like being transported to the cool jazz clubs of yesteryear. It's unfortunate that the album is only 40 minutes, but what it lacks in length it more than makes up in quality. I strongly recommend this album for all those Chris Conner fans and for those who enjoy listening to cool, jazz vocalists. Be "free spirited" and check it out!