Chris Connor's most distinctive qualities are her daredevil sense of time and her signature sound. She swings at all tempos, phrasing so far ahead or behind the beat that you fear she'll never reclaim it, but somehow she always does. The complex timbre of her voice is difficult to describe-misty yet strong, slightly strained but mellow. Her approach to lyrics is similarly ineffable. She never indulges in overt emoting, but imbues rueful ballads with a bruised, introspective quality. She shares with her '50s movie counterpart Kim Novak a stolid but vulnerable sensibility, implying that she knows much more about pain than she's willing to articulate.
Handsomely packaged with photographs of Connor at several stages of her long career, Warm Cool, a two-disc, 40-track anthology drawn from her six-year tenure with Atlantic Records, reveals how imaginatively and generously the label showcased her talent, surrounding her with large ensembles (string orchestras arranged by Ralph Burns and Jimmy Jones, and brass ensembles including Maynard Ferguson's and Count Basie's bands) and smaller groups comprised of top-flight jazz instrumentalists. (Among them, Phil Woods, Al Cohn, Oscar Pettiford, Clark Terry, Oliver Nelson, and Hank Jones.) Only diehard Connor fans will quibble about the anthology's emphasis on familiar material ("Misty", "Summertime", "I Got Rhythm") at the expense of the singer's knack for discovering such offbeat, signature compositions as "Round About" and "Thursday's Child."