Chris Connor

Free Spirits

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Chris Connor's smoky voice made her a natural fit for torch songs, but her flair for improvisation expanded her considerable talents to include upbeat material as well. Free Spirits, an excellent small-group date arranged for her by Al Cohn, features Connor in a range of settings; remember, free spirits don't necessarily mean high spirits. The choices for material also range far and wide. A trio of Ellington evergreens anchor the set, but she also includes material from Peggy Lee, Oscar Brown, Jr., Leiber & Stoller's "Kansas City," and Billie Holiday's nearly untouchable "God Bless the Child." It helps that she gets expressive accompaniment from an all-star lineup -- alto Phil Woods, tenor Oliver Nelson, and a pair of all-time trumpeters (Clark Terry and Joe Newman). Despite the title, the only concept at work here is her ability to captivate a listening audience with a wide-ranging set.

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