I used to mix Chris up with June Christy even before I read their career paths had actually crossed during the early Fifties. Apparently, Chris had grabbed June's attention via a radio broadcast so when she decided to leave Stan Kenton's Orchestra to pursue a solo career, she recommended Chris to Kenton as the ideal "cool school" vocalist to replace her. Chris briefly toured and recorded with Kenton's outfit during 1953 but found the constant travelling exhausting so by the end of the year, she went solo and signed a record contract.
This excellent two-disc set features the output from those early Bethlehem sessions recorded during 1953/54 which were fed into the albums CHRIS CONNOR SINGS LULLABYS OF BIRDLAND, CHRIS, and THIS IS CHRIS which helped propel the singer to success at age twenty-six. Also included is CHRIS CONNOR (1956) recorded after she moved to Atlantic with the addition of just one side of HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME NOT (1956) in order to fill the available space on CD 2.
It's a wonderful way to appreciate the warm, husky vocal style of Chris with her gentle vibrato used as necessary on so many standards and her wistful expressive outpourings adds magic to less-familiar material.
Avid's excellent remastering is a major factor as is the inclusion of the original vinyl album notes together with details of the various accompanying musicians - Sy Oliver and his Orchestra, the Elis Larkin Trio plus various other iconic jazz musicians.
This compilation presents some of Chris Connor's earliest recordings. It begins with four separate sessions, namely the Sy Oliver Orchestra in December 1953, the Ellis Larkins Trio and the Vinnie Burke Trio, both in August 1954, and the Ralph Sharon Quintet and Septet in April 1955. Originally they were allocated piecemeal to three Bethlehem albums, namely "Lullabys (sic) of Birdland", "Chris" and "This is Chris", but are presented here in the order in which they were recorded. That's followed by two Atlantic albums; "Chris Connor" dates from January/February 1956, and the first side of "He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not" from June 1956, with orchestra conducted by Ralph Burns. Chris Connor was typed as one of the cool singers, in the manner of June Christy, who brought her to Stan Kenton's attention. Her voice was warm and husky with vibrato used sparingly, and her delivery was deliberately restrained. The end result is a subtle and elegant reading of the lyrics which is in a class of its own.