MISS CHRIS CONNOR
November 8, 1927 - August 29, 2009
Jazz Singer Chris Connor Dies at 81
Posted on Sep 1st 2009 3:45PM by Charley Rogulewski
Famed jazz singer Chris Connor, one of the first white female jazz singers signed to Atlantic Records in the '50s, lost her battle with cancer Saturday. She was 81.
Connor, born Mary Loutsenhizer in Kansas City, Mo., on Nov. 8, 1927, grew up playing clarinet before transitioning into singing in her teens. Never having taken a singing lesson in her life -- "I like a natural singer better," she told the Buffalo News in 1996 -- Connor moved to New York City and worked as one of the back-up singers in the Claude Thornhill Orchestra in the late '40s. Drawing comparison to jazz greats Anita O'Day and Julie Christy, Connor -- known for her deep, smokey and restrained voice -- would follow both singers' footsteps by joining the Stan Kenton big band. Tired of the extensive touring, she left after less than a year and started her own successful solo career.
At 26 years old, Connor released her first solo album, 'Chris Connor Sings Lullabys of Birdland,' in 1953. In a departure from the big band style she had made a name for herself with, she relied on smaller jazz trios and quartets to create more intimacy between her and the audience. Connor eventually caught the ears of Atlantic Records, for whom she would release 12 albums. Her mid-'50s heyday was marked by the two chart hits -- 'I Miss You So' and 'Trust in Me.' However, in jazz circles she is best remembered for her tune 'All About Ronnie,' which appeared on her 1954 album 'Chris.'
After parting ways with Atlantic, Connor was never able to regain the steam of her career at its peak, though she would go on to record and tour until 2003. Her last public performance was in 2004 at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City.
Connor is survived by her longtime partner and manager, Lori Muscarelle, and a nephew. Funeral services will be privately held.