June Christy

Biography

The beatnik Doris Day, June Christy combined a sunny "girl-next door" appeal with darkly melancholic songs and an independent streak that meshed perfectly with the free-thinking coffeehouse crowd of the 1950s. Often associated with the West Coast jazz movement, Christy's ties to the style go back to its roots in the Boyd Raeburn and Stan Kenton big bands. June Christy quickly became a star with Kenton, and was renowned for deftly handling the experimental musical curveballs he would throw at her. After numerous hits as Kenton's featured singer, Christy left his orchestra and joined Capitol Records, the label for jazz singers in the 1950s. She recorded Something Cool, her brilliant debut L.P, in 1953 with her old Kenton cohort Pete Rugolo and a host of the West Coast's best cool jazz musicians (including her husband, saxophonist Bob Cooper). Something Cool was a major success and instantly became one the biggest sellers of its time. At once accessible and challenging, the album became a benchmark for the rest of her career. It showcased her knack for finding offbeat and often bleak tunes (the famed title track, for instance, is about a lonely, deluded woman who scares away a potential pick-up at a bar). After that artistic and commercial high-water mark, Christy was given free rein at Capitol and split her time between orchestral albums with Rugolo and small group jazz sessions, often with her husband. Even though she was a popular concert draw, Christy never enjoyed touring; when rock supplanted classic pop in the album charts in the mid-'60s, she called it a day, coming out of retirement occasionally to sing with the old cool jazz crowd until her death in 1990.

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