When I interviewed Chris in 2008, she told me one of her favorite albums was Chris Connor Sings the George Gershwin Almanac of Song for Atlantic. Interestingly, her recording in February 1957 came two years before Ella Fitzgerald's own Gershwin album—though in all fairness Fitzgerald had already started her songbook series in '56 with Cole Porter and Rodgers and Hart LPs.
Said Chris in 2008...
[Pianist] Ralph Sharon was with me for eight years, before I signed with Atlantic and while I was there. But he left suddenly for Tony Bennett, who offered him much more money. Ralph left me in the middle of my Sings the Gershwin Almanac album. Ray Ellis came in and arranged the rest of it. I love this album. Actually, I love all my Atlantic records. And they're still selling more than 50 years later."
These sessions were recorded with the very best East Coast jazz musicians—including Al Cohn, Herbie Mann, Peanuts Hucko, Jimmy Cleveland, Hank Jones, Barry Galbraith, Mundell Lowe and two dozen others on different dates. The Sharon-arranged tracks are mostly quartet and quintet sessions while the Ellis tracks are brassy, with an emphasis on trombones.
As you listen to Chris, dig how deftly she slides up and down the song's chord changes, how she lingers and how she takes risks, choosing unusual notes only to resolve them perfectly. All while pouring breath into that tenor sax of a voice of hers. Nearly six years after our chats, I still remember Chris as gracious, shy and fun.
JazzWax tracks: You'll find Chris Connor Sings the George