Betty St. Claire (vcl), Phil Sunkel (tp), Billy Byers (tb, arr), Hal McKusick (cl,as), Gene DiNovi, Eddie Swanson, Stan Free (p), Jimmy Raney, Barry Galbraith, Mundell Lowe (g), Clyde Lombardi, Addison Farmer (b), Jimmy Campbell, Herbie Lovelle, Ed Shaughnessy (d)
Reference: FSRCD 909
Bar code: 8427328609098
Born Betty Waddell in Columbus, Ohio, singer Betty St. Claire (1927-1972) was hailed as a “find” when, aged 14, she made her professional debut at the Detroit Club Congo. It led to theatre and club work throughout the Mid-West and the East and, eventually, a place with Dizzy Gillespie’s 1949 big band, as well as jobs with other leading jazz groups like Erroll Garner’s trio and Howard McGhee’s quintet. Musically speaking she was quickly dining at the top table.
She brought to it some striking assets - great time, a warm, illuminating and inviting way with lyrics, and an innately musical approach. They were all wrapped in an attractively husky, even lusty, voice that placed her, as a stylist, in a spot somewhere between Anita O’Day and June Christy that she made her own.
Moving to New York she worked the nightclub circuit and 1955 debuted on record with a program of varied, sophisticated standards on two 10” albums. Made for Jubilee, they confirmed her quality in the company of some of the Big Apple’s most capable jazzmen, among them Phil Sunkel, Billy Byers, Hal McKusick, Jimmy Raney, Barry Galbraith and Addison Farmer. In 1959, now at Seeco, she was backed by a quartet that included jazz notables Mundell Lowe, George Duvivier and Ed Shaughnessy for a relaxed demonstration of her affinity with the Great American Songbook and jazz musicians.
01. Out of Nowhere (Green-Heyman) 2:15
02. What Is There to Say? (Duke-Harburg) 3:35
03. Almost Like Being In Love (Loewe-Lerner) 2:46
04. Here Comes Trouble Again (Grey) 3:22
05. That Old Black Magic (Arlen-Mercer) 2:28
06. East of the Sun (Bowman) 2:29
07. I Hadn’t Anyone Till You (Noble) 2:18
08. Prelude to a Kiss (Ellington-Mills-Gordon) 3:58
09. Why Try to Change Me Now (Coleman-McCarthy) 3:18
10. My One and Only Love (G.& I.Gershwin) 4:14
11. Skylark (Carmichael-Mercer) 3:16
12. Give Me the Simple Life (Bloom-Ruby) 1:58
13. You Took Advantage of Me (Rodgers-Hart) 2:47
14. Moonlight in Vermont (Suessdorf-Blackburn) 3:33
15. Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life (Herbert-Young) 2:59
16. 'Tis Autumn (Nemo) 3:45
17. June’s a Word (Velona) 2:25
18. Lonelyville (Hackady-Marks) 3:18
19. You Turned the Tables On Me (Alter-Mitchell) 2:04
20. You’re Laughing At Me (Berlin) 3:45
21. Crazy Rhythm (Meyer-Caesar-Kahn) 3:18
22. Easy to Say (Worth) 4:20
23. I Get a Kick Out of You (Porter) 2:12
24. Like Someone In Love (Van Heusen-Burke) 3:10
Tracks #1-4, from the 10" album “Hal McKusick Plays-Betty St. Claire Sings”
Tracks # 5-12, from the 10" album “Cool and Clearer” (Jubilee JLP-23)
[Both Jubilee albums were later reissued in a 12" album entitled
"What Is There To Say?" (Jubilee LP-1011)]
Tracks #13-24, from the 12" album “At Basin Street East” (Seeco CELP-456)
Betty St. Claire, vocals, accompanied by
Tracks #1-4: Phil Sunkel, trumpet; Billy Byers, trombone & arrangements; Hal McKusick, clarinet & alto sax; Gene DiNovi, piano; Jimmy Raney, guitar; Clyde Lombardi, bass; Jimmy Campbell, drums.
Recorded in New York City, January 1955
Tracks #5-12: Eddie Swanson, piano; Barry Galbraith, guitar; Addison Farmer, bass; Herbie Lovelle, drums.
Recorded in New York City, March 1955
Tracks #13-24: Stan Free, piano; Mundell Lowe, guitar; George Duvivier, bass; Ed Shaughnessy, drums.
Recorded in New York City, December 1959
Original recordings produced by Lee Magid (Jubilee) and Mort Hillman (Seeco)
Jubilee art work by Burt Goldblatt
This CD release produced by Jordi Pujol
Hi Fi · 24-Bit Digitally Remastered
"Fresh Sound Records keeps finding these obscure vocalists that had a brief time in the spotlight before drifting away. This latest discovery is of Betty St. Claire (1927-1972), who actually had a gig with Dizzy Gillespie, Erroll Garner and Howard McGhee before stepping out on her own. This single disc contains the material from two 10” albums, and the supporting musicians are top notch, including Hal McKusick/cl-as, Barry Galbraith/g, Addison Farmer/b, Mundell Lowe/g, George Duvivier/b and Ed Shaughnessy.
She’s got a husky R&B-ish type voice, sort of like mid career Sarah Vaughan without the operatic overtures. She feels earthy and relaxed on adventurous reads of “Out of Nowhere” and “East of the Sun.” There’s an unpolished edge to her tone as on “My One and Only Love” and “Skylark” that give them a working class feel, while “Prelude To A Kiss” has her toying with the harmonies as if she wrote the piece. She does wonders with Galbraith’s accompaniment on “ I Hadn’t Anyone But You” and bops a bit with McKusick’s alto on “Almost Like Being In Love.” This one’s worth looking for!"
George W. Harris (January 9, 2017)
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