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11/15/11

Chris Connor
Sings Gentle Bossa Nova
Justin Time Records

As the 1960s reached their midpoint and traditional jazz and pop vocalists found their careers increasingly derailed, the fight for survival almost inevitably led down two paths: investigation of contemporary material, oftentimes dipping into the same songbooks that were feeding the insatiable teen market, and embrace of the seemingly indefatigable bossa craze. Even the mightiest—Sinatra, Fitzgerald, Bennett, Vaughan, Tormé, Lee—dutifully followed suit.

In 1965, Chris Connor, signed to ABC-Paramount for what would amount to only a two-album stay, opted to travel both paths simultaneously. Across Sings Gentle Bossa Nova, now available for the first time on CD, Connor is in fine form, her smoky, near-vibrato-less sound, impeccable phrasing and understatedly powerful emotional sincerity all effective as ever. And the bossa beat, indeed gentle (occasionally almost to the point of imperceptibility), fits her well. When she explores high-sheen pop from the best sources—Mancini’s “Dear Heart,” Bobby Scott’s “A Taste of Honey,” Bricusse and Newley’s “Who Can I Turn To” and “Feeling Good,” Kander and Ebb’s “A Quiet Thing” and Johnny Mandel’s “The Shadow of Your Smile”—it is cocktail-hour fodder on par with the best of Lee or Bennett.

When, however, she strays from the adult-pop trail, particularly on lethargically faux-hip readings of “Downtown” and “A Hard Day’s Night,” the results are as expected: decidedly uncool pandering to a surely indifferent youth market.

Originally published in November 2011
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