I want to write a book about some of the female jazz singers of the 1950s, particularly the “cool” white women who embodied the tension between the goody-two-shoes image of postwar suburban America and its desire for normalcy, and the addictive lure of rhythm and the night. June Christy would be in this book, along with Anita O’Day, Blossom Dearie, Julie London, Irene Kral…. I’m taking suggestions.
The two most famous members of this set mark out the territory: Doris Day, a great jazz singer who become the ultimate symbol of modesty and decorum; and Peggy Lee, the North Dakota girl who got the “Fever” and never seemed to shake it.
This sublime video clip of “the misty Miss Christy” performing with a jazz combo featuring Nat “King” Cole and Mel Tormé shows what I’m talking about. June’s all smiles, like she just finished baking a cherry pie. But she’s got the syncopation, she’s got the blue notes (especially in the way she ends the song), there’s a hint of smoke, and you can just tell, she might have grown up in a house with a white picket fence, but that’s not where she lives now.
Nat “King” Cole is a name that should be familiar to you, but you probably think of him more as a singer of great pop songs like “Rambling Rose,” “But Beautiful,” and that Christmas tune that begins “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” But he got his start as a pianist, and you get to see him in all his Oscar Peterson-like glory here.
Welcome to my obsession….