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June Christy: Fair and Warmer!

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Each year, right after the holidays, I love listening to June Christy's 1950s vocal recordings for Capitol. It's the hip dryness of her voice, the beaming sunshine of her singing style and cool phrasing that knock me out. It's all very California. Couple this with Pete Rugolo's eclectic arrangements and the Hollywood tigers assembled for the recording sessions and you have the perfect music to get your head back into a work groove. Yesterday, I spent the day listening to Christy's Fair and Warmer!

Recorded in January 1957, the album was captured over three sessions. Backing Christy on Imagination, The Best Thing for You Is Me, It's Always You and When Sunny Gets Blue, Ive Never Been in Love Before, I Know Why, Let There Be Love, No More, Beware My Heart, I Want to Be Happy, Better Luck Next Time and Irresistible You were Don Fagerquist (tp), Frank Rosolino (tb), Vince DeRosa (fhr), Clarence Karella (tu), Bud Shank (fl,as), Bob Cooper (ts), Dave Pell (bar), Larry Bunker (vib), Ben Aronov (p) Howard Roberts (g) Red Mitchell (b) Shelly Manne (d), unknown strings and Pete Rugolo (arr,cond).

The consistent personnel says something about this date, Christy's reputation and regard for Rugolo's (above) leadership. Though the album was recorded on January 3, 15 and 21, Rugolo was able to book the same musicians for all three dates without subbing out a single spot. Quite remarkable given how busy most of these musicians were with advance-bookings on album and movie sessions.

On each song, Christy does something interesting with the melody and harmony, whether it's the unusual notes she hits or how she sings before and after the beat. Even though a bunch of the songs may be familiar to you, Rugolo and Christy come up with new approaches that make the material fascinating and compelling. I can't recall which of my JazzWax interviews touched on Christy's non-Kenton leadership sessions. The musician told me he ran into the singer in the Capitol parking lot on a break and she confessed she was a nervous wreck. The musician was in disbelief. How could Christy, a sturdy pro, be out of sorts over a studio session. But there you have it. Most of the battle with nerves comes before you go on. Then some magical force in your brain takes over and you're off to the races. What better way to start the year than with June Christy in your head.

June Christy died in 1990, Pete Rugolo died in 2011.

JazzWax clips: Here's Better Luck Next Time, with muted trumpet solos by Don Fagerquist...



Here's I've Never Been in Love Before, with Bud Shank's flute and Bob Cooper's tenor sax...



And here's I Know Why (and So Do You)...



A bit of trivia: The original version of Mack Gordon and Harry Warren's I Know Why had its debut in Sun Valley Serenade (1941). The two actors singing along to Glenn Miller playing Bill Finegan's arrangement of the song in the film are Lynn Bari and John Payne (at the piano). While Payne recorded his own chorus, studio singer Pat Friday overdubbed Bari's vocal. Here it is...



Priceless: Here's Christy singing I Want to Be Happy from Fair and Warmer! in 57. Dig the nifty opener!...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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