Saturday, April 12, 2008

Something Kewl


June’s in Tune
by George T. Simon
Metronome magazine July 1949

Miss Christy isn’t sure how she got that way, but wants to improve more and always sing jazz

SHE’S STAN KENTON, pint-sized, feminine-style, this June Christy gal. She's just as intense, just as enthusiastic about her music as Stan used to be. She lives it and she loves it and she's not going to let anybody stop her from singing it.

"I must sing jazz!" she exclaims emphatically. But whereas most singers say things like that and do nothing about it, June has very definite plans. "I want to do recitals. I want to hire small recital halls in various towns and then do what I want to. I’d like to have a good small group with me, Bob's especially." Bob is her husband, former Kenton saxist Bob Cooper, who at this writing is on the West Coast, far away from June, who doesn’t like his being so far away one bit.

Note above that June specifically said "small" recital halls. She doesn't have any delusions of grandeur. She doesn't think folks are going to flock in from all over just because she won a couple of polls. She doesn’t think she's nearly so great as a great majority of girls think they are. But June's improving. Everybody in the business is noticing that. Her latest Capitol records are much better than her first sides with Kenton and the first she made on her own, released a couple of years ago.

Most noticeable recent change in her singing revolves around her intonation. June's in tune these days and that improvement alone has raised her musical stock tremendously. She has no real explanation for it. "Maybe the rest did me some good. I didn’t sing from Christmas, when the band broke up, until April the fourth. Then too, it may be just that I've been improving steadily, a little bit all the time. After a while, I guess, people are bound to notice it. Also, I think my ear has been improving. If you’re as interested in singing as I am and want to go ahead, I guess you've just got to improve. At least when you're trying like that you can't go backward."

June has another interesting and more general explanation. Girls singing with bands, she points out, don't get much of a chance to practice. They move around a great deal and almost always live in hotels. There they don't get a chance to vocalize, primarily (at least this was so in June's case when she was with Kenton, because there's nothing that makes a gal singer feel quite so self-conscious as emoting in a hotel room, knowing all the time that there are probably dozens of people around her wishing she'd shut up).

The self-conscious aspect also pervades June's career as a single. Now, to be sure, she finds more time for practice, but now, with no band behind her, she's much more conscious of the spotlight. "I'm not the showman I should be, yet," she admits, "But I think I'm gradually getting over the feeling that everybody's staring at me. You see, I want to sell what I sing and I want to be a showman. But at the same time I don't want to sacrifice singing for salesmanship. I must sing jazz!" Those of us who saw June in her recent Bop City stint and also in her first New York solo appearance two years ago at the Troubadour were amazed not only at the improvement in her singing, but also in her improvement as a performer. At the Troubadour she was strictly a hip gal singer, trying to kill all the musicians in the room with vocal tricks, but not killing them (because of her intonation) and certainly not entertaining the rest of the room (because of her lack of showmanship). These days, though, she's a very sleek, slick little performer. Unlike other jazz singers, she looks clean and refreshing and her warm smile and graceful motions make a fine impression on everyone. Maybe she's still self-conscious, but, judging from her recent performances, you'd never know it.

Of, course, as she readily admits, there's nothing like having a guy like Stan Kenton up there with you to give you confidence. Just like everybody else who has come off the Kenton band, she is full of praise for her former boss. "Stan always inspired me, yet he never told me how or what to sing. When I was down, be would build me up. When I was a little too high for my own good, he'd sit on me and bring me down to where I belonged. It would take up your whole magazine if I ever told you all that I got from Stan, not only about music but about people, too!”

June wants to be sure to include in her Kenton testimonial the large part that Stan has played in achieving recognition for jazz. She feels that the booking agencies, among whose members there are too many phonies, take delight in putting jazz down. "But it took a guy like Stan to make them respect us!"

June hopes to gain more respect for jazz in her future engagements. Until such time as she can be reunited musically with her husband, she looks forward to working with soft backgrounds in clubs, preferably with a trio or quartet like the Nat Cole group with which she worked at Bop City. "A quieter group almost always means a quieter audience," she says. "And that's great! Since working with Nat, I really enjoy singing ballads, something I've never especially enjoyed before. You know what I'd really get my kicks from? I'd like to do some things with just guitar alone, with Laurindo Almeida, that wonderful guitarist Stan had. I think we could do some really pretty things!"

June has additional praises for another Kenton alumnus, arranger Bob Graettinger, who wrote the unusual background on her new Capitol record of Everything Happens To Me. To her, that's a different sound, something new in the field of music, certainly something very different from the lush fiddles or the small combo sounds that back most singers. Singing with complicated backgrounds of the Graettinger sort of course requires a really good idea and a keen sense of pitch. Listen to how June sounds on that record, and you'll get a pretty good idea of how much the girl has improved and why so many of her earlier well-wishers and disbelievers alike now shout: "JUNE'S IN TUNE!"

No comments: