Bette St. Claire

Hal McKusick Plays/Betty St. Clair Sings

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This Fresh Sound reissue of a Jubilee Records LP made in 1955 in New York City is an entertaining snapshot (35 minutes of recording time doesn't allow for much more) of a young singer who, like so many others, came, made a small splash, and then seemed to vanish from the scene. Prior to cutting this album, Betty St. Claire worked with Dizzy Gillespie's 1949 band. She also spent some time with Erroll Garner and Howard McGhee. Sounding like Anita O'Day, on this album she is paired with multi-instrumentalist Hal McKusick for 11 familiar and one not so familiar melodies, each averaging just under three minutes. The lack of playing time doesn't allow for in-depth exploration of the music. Like many of the song stylists of the day, (e.g., O'Day and June Christy), St. Clair adopted the cool, vibratoless mode of singing. There's an abundance of good swinging stuff here. On "East of the Sun" and "I Hadn't Anyone Till You," St. Claire moves out with Barry Galbraith's guitar following close behind. While McKusick is given co-billing on the album, he is only on "Out of Nowhere," "What Is There to Say?," "Almost Like Being in Love," and "Here Comes Trouble Again." When he does appear, his presence is felt through his clarinet on "Out of Nowhere" and with a boppish alto on "Almost Like Being in Love." St. Claire has Eddie Swanson, Barry Galbraith, Addison Farmer, and Herb Lovelle backing her on the eight remaining cuts. A combination of comfortable tunes, fine arrangements, and good musicians makes this album a pleasant reprise of the cool vocal jazz of the 1950s by one of its more talented exponents.

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