121

Chris Connor: Haunted Heart

Mathew Bahl By

Sign in to view read count
Chris Connor: Haunted Heart There is always a moment of trepidation when a jazz legend produces a new record after an absence of several years; a fear that what is will diminish the memory of what was. Thankfully, that is not the case with Haunted Heart, Chris Connor’s wonderful new CD on the HighNote label.

Vocally, the 73-year old singer sounds far younger than her chronological age. Ms. Connor’s voice has dropped noticeably in pitch over the last 30 years. However, she has compensated for the loss of her top notes with superb control over a warm and evocative lower register. Whereas in the 1950s and 1960s, she seemed to attack her material, Ms. Connor now sings from a calm, focused center. The tense energy of her youth has given way to a quiet confidence.

Pianist Mike Abene has drawn on his decades long association with Ms. Connor to craft smart, uncluttered arrangements that play to her strengths. Drummer Dennis Mackrel’s sure touch keeps the rhythm section humming along while Ingrid Jensen on trumpet and flugelhorn and Bill Easley on reeds prove to be much more than special guest soloists. Whether it’s playing unison passages, filling in behind the vocalist or taking extended solos, both Ms. Jensen and Mr. Easley fully integrate themselves into the ensemble. Ms. Jensen, in particular, displays exquisite tonal control and a truly distinctive voice.

However, Ms. Connor’s vast experience is the fulcrum on which Haunted Heart is balanced. The disc opens with a defiantly up-tempo “By Myself” that finds the singer’s formidable command of time undiminished. Nowhere is her lower register better showcased than on “Snowfall,” a composition by her old boss, pianist and bandleader, Claude Thornhill. Ms. Connor shapes the piece as a tone poem with her rich low notes juxtaposed against Mr. Easley’s fluid flute lines. “Day In, Day Out” and Benny Carter’s “Key Largo” (erroneously attributed to Schwartz & Dietz in the CD booklet) have been in Ms. Connor’s “book” for years, but her performances here show no signs of simply going through the motions.

Ms. Connor’s engagement with the material comes through most powerfully on the ballads. Without the use of any discernable dramatic devices, she sharpens the edges on lyrics, and, bypassing sentimentality, uses them to cut away at real emotions. “Haunted Heart” and “Only the Lonely” are masterpieces of unaffected communication. “Stairway to the Stars” and Johnny Mercer and Doris Tauber’s too-rarely heard gem “Drinking Again” are nearly as great.

Haunted Heart is probably Chris Connor’s finest album since 1986’s Classic. It is a compelling and deeply satisfying record by a singer who long ago earned her place in the pantheon of great jazz singers.


Track Listing: By Myself, Haunted Heart, Snowfall, But Not For Me, Stairway to the Stars, Key Largo, Only the Lonely, Day In Day Out, I Wished on the Moon, Drinking Again

Personnel: Chris Connor: vocals; Mike Abene: piano and arranger; Ingrid Jensen: trumpet and flugelhorn; Bill Easley: tenor saxophone and flute; Dennis Mackrel: drums; Chip Jackson: bass; Steve Laspina: bass.

Year Released: 2002 | Style: Vocal


Shop

More Articles

Read June CD/LP/Track Review June
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Final Concert CD/LP/Track Review The Final Concert
by John Sharpe
Published: February 19, 2017
Read Desire & Freedom CD/LP/Track Review Desire & Freedom
by Glenn Astarita
Published: February 19, 2017
Read On Hollywood Boulevard CD/LP/Track Review On Hollywood Boulevard
by Budd Kopman
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Motorman's Son CD/LP/Track Review The Motorman's Son
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 18, 2017
Read "Magic Light" CD/LP/Track Review Magic Light
by James Nadal
Published: April 26, 2016
Read "Jazzin' Around Christmas" CD/LP/Track Review Jazzin' Around Christmas
by Chris Mosey
Published: December 8, 2016
Read "Ida Lupino" CD/LP/Track Review Ida Lupino
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 15, 2016
Read "Tropical Infinito" CD/LP/Track Review Tropical Infinito
by Edward Blanco
Published: May 8, 2016
Read "Four Plus Three" CD/LP/Track Review Four Plus Three
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: June 5, 2016
Read "Live In Brooklyn" CD/LP/Track Review Live In Brooklyn
by Roger Farbey
Published: January 23, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!