Julie Kelly

Kelly Sings Christy: Thou Swell

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No discussion of '40s and '50s cool jazz would be complete without some mention of June Christy. Like Chris Connor and Julie London, the Misty Miss Christy (b. 1925, d. 1990) was a vocal equivalent of tenor saxophonist Stan Getz, alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, or trumpeter Miles Davis -- her singing was characterized by subtlety, restraint, and economy instead of aggression or forcefulness. Although Christy was the essence of cool jazz, one doesn't have to be a full-time member of the Cool School to acknowledge her greatness. Julie Kelly is far from a carbon copy of Christy, and that's the thing that makes this Christy tribute as interesting as it is -- on Kelly Sings Christy: Thou Swell, Kelly salutes the cool-toned goddess on her own terms. Recorded in 2001 (11 years after Christy's death), this excellent CD is devoted to songs that people associate with Christy -- gems that include Billy Barnes' "Something Cool" and Lionel Hampton's "Midnight Sun." To her credit, Kelly doesn't go out of her way to emulate Christy's versions. Her own personality never becomes obscured, and Kelly does some things that Christy wouldn't have done. An Afro-Cuban-flavored version of "It Might as Well Be Spring," for example, is more aggressive and hard-swinging than Christy would have been -- and Kelly's interpretations of "Thou Swell" and "Lazy Afternoon" have a tougher, harder edge than one would expect from Christy. So even though Christy is among Kelly's many influences, no one will accuse this CD of being a carbon copy of Christy's work. Jazz tribute albums can be incredibly predictable, cliché-ridden affairs, but that isn't a problem here. Letting her individuality shine through, Kelly isn't afraid to offer some surprises on this inspired tribute to the Misty Miss Christy.

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