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September 2005

June Christy
Ballads for Night People
Capitol Records

That June Christy is one of the great jazz stylists of the past half-century is indisputable. But it’s especially apparent when she was under the tutelage of her husband—the arranger, tenor saxophonist and occasional songwriter Bob Cooper—as she is on the 15 tracks of this bonus-enriched reissue. Though no cooler, nor more musically savvy, than fellow Stan Kenton band canaries Anita O’Day and Chris Connor, there was a slightly heightened sophistication, a distingué urbanity about Christy that shines through on everything here from the slyly self-satisfied “Bewitched” to Billy Strayhorn’s button-cute “Kissing Bug,” and is particularly iridescent on what may be the definitive version of Kurt Weill’s dreamy “My Ship.”

But Christy, much like Peggy Lee, didn’t always exercise the best judgment in song selection. Here, as a result, are such drab nonstarters as Arthur Hamilton’s overwrought “Shadow Woman” and Tommy Wolf and Fran Landesman’s clunky attempt at bohemian rhapsody, “Night People.” (How much more interesting it might’ve been if Christy had instead covered the then-recent Nat “King” Cole hit, “Night Lights.”)

The bonus tracks comprise Christy’s six selections from 1961’s Do Re Mi, an album evenly split between her vocals and Cooper’s instrumentals and built around the Broadway score to Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Jule Styne’s minor hit about the volatility of the music business. Sadly, it was far from the best work of the composers’ respective careers, leaving only one real gem, the wistful “Make Someone Happy.”

Originally published in September 2005
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