ONE OF the many pleasures of Atlantic's remarkable six-record "New York Cabaret Music" compilation of 1940s hits was discovering (or rediscovering) the young Chris Connor, glowing darkly through songs like "Moonlight in Vermont" and "They All Laughed" with Stan Kenton and His Orchestra.
After a long absence, Connor made a welcome reappearance on the jazz vocal scene last year with the appropriately titled comeback album "Classic." Luckily, it wasn't a one-shot.
As ever, on her latest album "New Again," Connor never pretends to make singing sound effortless. While her unique tone and instrument -- a voice like bittersweet chocolate -- were clearly God-given, everything else in her singing is clearly a conscious choice. You can almost hear her deciding where to go.
And one of Connor's conscious choices since her return has been to do more by doing less, to do away with histrionics and over-stylization. Now, Connor is at the service of the song. At best, this results in a fresh approach, as on the album's "I've Heard That Song Before/Everything Old Is New Again." When it's not working, Connor sounds uncertain and misses the emotional mark, or the note.
A few of the songs here don't suit her as well as others: Her voice and orchestration are not light and lilting enough for the pair of Michael Franks' Brazil-inspired tunes, "Down in Brazil" and "Antonio's Song." But it's a real pleasure to hear Connor softly chocolate- dipping a song like Laura Nyro's "I Never Meant To Hurt You" or "My Foolish Heart." And it's still a thrill to hear her let go and swing hard as she does on "Dancing in the Dark" in the LP's swell Fred Astaire medley.
CHRIS CONNOR -- "New Again" (Contemporary (C-14038). Appearing Sunday afternoon at the University of Maryland Center of Adult Education Auditorium.