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Beverly Kenney: Complete Royal Roost Recordings

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Among the scores of female jazz singers who came and went during the 1950s, Beverly Kenney is a sad and rather exceptional case. Kenney was just 28 when she took her own life in June 1960. Mere weeks before her suicide (purportedly prompted by a failed romance with beat poet Milton Klonsky), Kenney appeared on the syndicated TV series Playboy’s Penthouse, an urbane showcase hosted by Hugh Hefner. In his introduction, Hef refers to her as “a girl with a rather warm and sensitive way with a song [who] hasn’t really made it in a big way yet.” True on both counts. Though Kenney recorded six albums beginning in the mid-’50s-three each for Royal Roost and then the far more powerful Decca-she remained largely under the radar. Which was a shame. Decent female singers were a dime a dozen in those days, but Kenney had something special, melding the winsomeness of Doris Day with the smolder of Julie London and the cool jazz sensibility of June Christy.

Kenney’s legacy would, no doubt, have been even more obscured by now if it weren’t for ardent Japanese fans who have kept her albums steadily in print. But on this side of the Pacific, those Japanese CDs came with hefty price tags, largely limiting Kenney’s circle of Stateside admirers to deep-pocketed collectors. Now, at last, the entire Kenney oeuvre-all six albums plus nearly three-dozen bonus tracks-is affordably available on two double-disc sets.

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