Chris Connor is one of many blond-haired kittens whose vocals were popular during the fifties. Like many of her fellow canaries, she got her start in the big bands (Thornhill's and Kenton's, in this case) before becoming successful enough to strike out on her own. Leaving the big band sound behind for the intimacy of the small groups, Connor showed an above average knack at interpreting popular tunes, as well as a penchant for keeping her jazz roots intact.
All About Chris compiles songs from her first three records, all on the Bethlehem label. They find her attacking relatively safe material such as "Out Of This World, "Goodbye, and "Lullaby of Birdland with a strong presence and warm delivery. The backing bands in each case provide swinging accompaniment, from the Ellis Larkins Trio to the Vinnie Burke Quartet to the Ralph Sharon Group. Many notable jazz players are on hand here, including Herbie Mann, J.J. Johnson, Kai Winding and Milt Hinton, all making the most of their brief soloing opportunities when allowed and providing understated backing the rest of the time.
But it's the tracks with the piano-less Vinnie Burke Quartet that are the most unusual and the most rewarding. Guitarist Joe Cinderella, who provided knotty chords for Gil Melle, is well used herecheck out his rich accompaniment behind Connor on the excellent "Lush Life while Herbie Mann provides ghostly flute work on many of the songs. These four tracks feature Connor at her most melancholy and introspective, a nice contrast to the boisterous "Fly Me To The Moon which closes out the disc.
Chris Connor will always be on the second tier of jazz singers, which is a shame, but All About Chris is an excellent compilation of her less essential recordings. A swinging set from a great singer.
Personnel: Chris Connor: vocal; Everett Barksdale, Joe Puma, Joe Cinderella: guitar; Beverly Peer, Vinnie Burke, Ralph Sharon: piano; Ronnie Odrich: flute, clarinet; Herbie Mann: flute, tenor sax; Osie Johnson: drums; J.J. Johnson, Kai Winding: trombone.