CHRIS CONNOR first made her reputation in Stan Kenton's band in the early '50s, but like so many mainstream vocalists, she found the late '50s and '60s unreceptive to her sometimes swinging, but most often straight-ahead interpretations of material drawn from the suddenly dry wellspring of American popular song. Of course, it didn't take a Linda Ronstadt to prove that the well wasn't really dry, just that not enough people were dipping the bucket. Connor's modest comeback in the '70s was one of many that were not only justified but also rewarding.
On "Love Being Here With You," Connor confirms just how well she knows her way around a good song. She has two basic approaches: on the title song and the misleadingly titled "The Thrill Is Gone," she races jubilantly through the melody. On ballads such as "Anyone Home," "How Little We Know" and "Like Someone in Love," her voice softens to velvet and drapes itself around a melody. On "Someone in Love," Bucky Pizzarelli's brittle guitar reinforces the image of a woman happy to be simmering over a low flame, while Russ Kassoff's blue piano on "Anyone Home" suggests the same woman, badly burned. It's a dramatic emotional dichotomy that Connor handles beautifully.
The approaches meet in two Latin excursions, a rhythmically swirling "Rio" and the languid bossa nova of "Baia," but it's on the homeground that Chris Connor is most elegantly at ease. CHRIS CONNOR -- "Love Being Here With You" (Stash ST232); appearing at Cates Restaurant through December 30.