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O'Day, Conner, and London

The Record Shelf

By Stephen Addiss

During the Second World War a record sold one-and-a-half million copies; the tune was "Let Me Off Uptown;" the singer, Anita O'Day. She had a unique style, toying with a melody, avoiding sentimentality in the ballads, and introducing jazz idioms. Miss O'Day became hugely popular. Columbia has reissued on LP the original sides she made with Gene Krupa's band, and they preserve their offbeat charm. Listen to the almost wordless "That's What You Think," and you'll realize that Anita is one of the great.

Not to be outdone, last summer Verve Records reorganized the group, which featured Roy Eldridge, and rerecorded most of the same tunes. The two records are fascinating to compare--O'Day's style has remained much the same but is now a little drier, and even a little surer and more free. Her accompanists also have more fun the second time around, as they recall the old days. The new record is as exciting as any modern item in the catalog. (Col. 753, Verve 2008).

Anita O'Day has also made a LP of standards with arrangements by Buddy Bregman. Her rendition of "Honeysuckle Rose" is a classic, with only a Bass accompanying her for half the song. Bregman's other arrangements are run-of-the-mile, but it is nonetheless a pleasure to hear Anita take off on fine tunes like "I Can't Get Started" and "No Moon At All." (Verve 2000).

Among the new singers, Chris Conner stands out, singing with an authority that recalls Dinah Shore. The influence of Anita O'Day is noticable in Conner, but she is gradually evolving a style that is completely her own. Four records with Bethlehem started her on her way, followed by two LP's for Atlantic. The first (1228) exhibits her peculiar dry but throaty tone in some distinctly modern arrangements. The second (Atlantic 1240) is almost exactly the opposite--slow melancholy songs with lush orchestrations by Ralph Burns. While the latter record may become the more popular, the dry upbeat quality of the former is Chris Connor's real contribution to modern jazz. Perhaps the best introduction to her varied gifts is in Bethlehem '56, which collects the best songs from her first three records.

Another relative newcomer to notoriety is Julie London, who has made three LP's within the year for Liberty Records. No one claims a distinctive style for her, but she sings with a lack of affectation that allows her small, warm voice to make an immediate impression. She is also as beautiful a girl as you could wish, of which fact Liberty has taken advantage with no less than thirteen large color portraits on her latest album. Despite the visual effects, though, her best LP remains the first, (Lib. 3006) with just Guitar and Bass. If you like your songs sung intimately and on the slow side, she's your dish.

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