From Alan Eichler Publicist
LEGENDARY JAZZ SINGER CHRIS CONNOR DEAD AT 81
Legendary jazz vocalist Chris Connor, who first came to prominence with the orchestras of Claude Thornhill and Stan Kenton and went on to record dozens of successful albums and singles, died on Saturday evening, August 29 at the Community Medical Center in Toms River, NJ following a long bout with cancer, according to her publicist Alan Eichler. She was 81. Among her many hits were “All About Ronnie,” “Trust in Me” and “I Miss You So.” Nearly her entire recorded legacy has been reissued on CD, including such classic albums as “The George Gershwin Almanac of Song,” “Witchcraft” and “Lullabys of Birdland.”
Chris Connor was among the most popular '50s vocalists, famous for altering rhythms on ballads, using little vibrato except on special occasions, and a husky, lush sound and she continued to record and perform successfully throughout the world for the next 50 years.
Born Mary Loutsenhizer in Kansas City, MO on Nov. 8, 1927, Connor studied clarinet for eight years as a child, then began singing in her late teens. She was the vocalist with a large band at the University of Missouri led by Bob Brookmeyer modeled after the Kenton band. After working with a group in Kansas City, Connor moved to New York in 1949. She sang with Claude Thornhill, Herbie Fields and Thornhill again in the early '50s, performing with Thornhill's vocal group the Snowflakes.
An admirer of Kenton singers Anita O’Day and June Christy, Connor recalled, “I had my sights set on singing with Kenton.” While appearing with Jerry Wald’s band, she got her wish, receiving a phone call to join Kenton in 1952, with whom she recorded her biggest hit, “All About Ronnie.” Connor went solo in 1953 and signed with Bethlehem Records for two years. She then moved to Atlantic, and enjoyed worldwide success as one of their biggest album sellers, having two chart singles in the late '50s. They were the songs “Trust In Me" and the title cut from the album “I Miss You So.” Connor switched to Roulette and ABC-Paramount and was highly praised for her 1966 appearance at the Austin Jazz Festival. Following a period of semi-retirement, Connor made a comeback in the mid-70's, cutting albums with Kenton and Maynard Ferguson. She continued recording into the '80’s, 90’s and 2000’ for such labels as Progressive, Contemporary, High Note and Enja, and touring throughout the world, including Carnegie Hall in New York, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and top venues in Japan, where she was hugely popular. Her last appearance was at the Iridium jazz club in New York City in 2004 in a split engagement with her idol Anita O’Day.
She is survived by a nephew and her longtime companion and manager Lori Muscarelle. Services will be private. Further details at http://www.chrisconnorjazz.com/
These photos were taken here in St. Louis by photographer Bernie Thrasher between 1956 and 1958.
These rare unpublished images are from the Euclid Records Archives and cannot be replicated without the consent of Euclid Records LLC St. Louis, MO
Monday, August 31, 2009
From Alan Eichler Publicist