Connie Evingson: Sweet Happy Life

Seventeen years and nine albums into a sterling recording career, Connie Evingson is a singer who likes her themes. Past projects have included tributes to Peggy Lee, the Beatles, Dave Frishberg and the Hot Club jazz of Django Reinhardt. Now the Minnesotan chanteuse, whose vocal similarity to Chris Connor remains downright eerie, turns her attention to Norman Gimbel, surely the least-renowned lyricist ever inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Throughout the 1960s, Gimbel’s principal claim to fame was fitting English lyrics to international hits composed by the likes of Antonio Carlos Jobim, Luiz Bonfá, Michel Legrand, Gilbert Bécaud and Pablo Beltrán Ruiz. An Oscar and multiple Grammy winner, Gimbel also, however, scored big with original tunes, bookending his 1960s work with the massive hits “Canadian Sunset” and “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” and creating memorable TV themes for, among others, Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley.

While wisely sidestepping the TV ditties, Evingson digs deep into the Gimbel oeuvre, augmenting obvious choices-“The Girl From Ipanema,” “Sway,” “So Nice,” “I Will Wait for You”-with obscurer selections like Carlos Lyra’s peppy “Take Me to Aruanda” and Haroldo Lobo’s joyful “Tristeza.” A first-class swinger several degrees warmer than Connor, Evingson is ideally suited to Gimbel’s gentle bossa leanings, but proves an equally astute balladeer, notably on “How Insensitive” and Henry Mancini’s “Slow Hot Wind.” And Gimbel himself provided Evingson with the previously unrecorded “Adventure,” an inky exploration of amour’s mysteries, co-written with Jobim and strongly evocative of Legrand’s “The Windmills of Your Mind.”