Chris Connor, the great jazz singer whose lush, foggy voice and compressed emotional intensity distilled a 1950s jazz reverie of faraway longing in a sad cafe, died on Saturday in Toms River, N.J. She was 81 and lived in Toms River.
The cause was cancer, her publicist, Alan Eichler, said.
A singer who used little vibrato and was admired for her inventive rhythmic alterations of ballads, Ms. Connor belonged to the cool school of jazz singers that included Anita O’Day, June Christy, Chet Baker and Julie London.
In her finest records, she conveyed the sound of a singer rapt in a romantic spell. Both O’Day and Christy, whom she emulated, preceded her as vocalists with the Stan Kenton band, which she joined briefly in 1953, replacing Christy. Ms. Connor had earlier sung with the Claude Thornhill band.
During her solo recording career, which began in 1953, Ms. Connor had only two charted hits: “I Miss You So” (1956) and “Trust In Me” (1957), both for Atlantic Records. But for jazz vocal aficionados, her signature song, “All About Ronnie,” Joe Greene’s smoldering ballad of romantic obsession, is a pop-jazz milestone of dreamy cool. Originally recorded with Kenton, she re-recorded it on Bethlehem Records after she went solo.
Today, many of Ms. Connor’s 1950s and ’60s albums are regarded as pop-jazz classics. Among the strongest are three from 1956, “Chris Connor,” “I Miss You So” and “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not,” as well as “Chris Connor Sings the George Gershwin Almanac of Song” (1957) and “A Portrait of Chris” (1960).