West Coast Vocalist Cat Conner's debut recording, Cat Tales (Rhombus Records, 2012) was a critical highlight vocal recording of the year. Conner's grace and sophistication come from the same school that produced Shirley Horn, Rebecca Parris and Patti Wicks. She is a master of the slow ballad and that may be the least of her considerable talents as expressed on the present Cat House.
Conner's song choice for Cat House was measured and forward thinking. It reflects the singer's deep knowledge of popular vocal music, as well as, infusing the essence of the unavoidable life experiences that shape us into the canon of the Great American Songbook. On than note, it was once opined that "standards" were standard because of their timeless application in life. One must grow into them to understand, internalize and then recreate them as lessons and witnesses. Conner's true oeuvre is that she has done exactly this to a measure of perfection met by few other singers.
Conner touts Cat House as a deeply emotional and personal project, where she bends thirteen relatively underperformed pieces to her vocal and intentional will, making them tell her story, thereby resolving the good with the bad in a life well lived. She deftly dispatches Cole Porter's "Everything I Love" with the addition of her own lyrics ("Everything I Desire") over John Chiodini's plush and expressive guitar. She runs with Chiodini's arrangement of Sonny Burke's "Sans Souci," almost purring the Peggy Lee lyrics around Gene Cipriano's bass oboe, which sounds oddly perfect in the mix.
Pianist Tom Ranier sets into motion Chiodini's provocative Latin arrangement of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" with lyrics penned by friends Meredith d'Ambrosio and Ron Hurston. The song has an overall love-humid feel seasoned with just the right sensual tension. Ranier plays with a carefully tethered slow burn that propels the song languidly and with intent. Conner's voice is perfectly balanced throughout, informed by a life of experience and a future of hope and happiness. This is an album about turning corners and coming out on top.
Everything I Love/Everything I Desire; Handsome Man (Pretty Girl); Sans
Souci; Giant Steps; Throw Me Away; Remind Me; Baltimore Oriole; Heart’s
Desire; Wishing on the Moon; You’re Driving Me Crazy; Come on Strong;
What a Little Moonlight Can Do; People Say.
Cat Conner: vocals, shaker; John Chiodini: guitar; Gene Cipriano:
clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone, bass oboe; Tom Rainer: piano;
Chuck Berghofer: bass; Joe LaBarbera: drums; Ron Stout: trumpet; Dick
Nash: trombone; Stephanie O’Keef: French horn; Bob Carr: bassoon, bass
clarinet, alto flute.