Singer June Christy (1925-1990) had the good fortune to and curse of being associated with one of the most reviled (before fusion and free, that is) movements in jazz: the Cool School a.k.a. the West Coast scene. Some critics have gone so far as to politely damn Miles Davis for his part in The Birth of the Cool and jazz writer Hughes Panassie went so far as to maintain that "cool" - along with bebop - wasn’t really jazz at all. [The British comedy-rock band the Bonzo Dog Band (sort of a 60s musical Monty Python) even had a song entitled "Jazz - Delicious Hot, Disgusting Cold."] Plus, she had the nerve to be born white and blonde, which to some people meant she couldn’t be all that good.
Ahem. Back to Ms. Christy - she has a gently swinging style, and could really excel at ballads. She sings in a clear alto, which occasionally gets husky. Not as flashy as Anita O’Day, more "technique" than Helen Merrill, not as "musicianly" as Billie Holiday - if one tried to pin me to a simile, I’d say she was/is a counterpart to Sarah Vaughan: similar poise, subtle sexiness & wisdom and sense of swing. Ballads For Night People is a self-evident concept album: gorgeously languid ballads (sung with subtle hints of wistfulness), and several selections are not (thankfully) the same standards every other jazz singer has covered before and since. The concept goes a little deeper - this set’s instrumental settings are by a small-to-medium-size group emphasizing woodwinds (English horn, flute, etc.) and harp along with muted brass and the way-underrated Charlie Parker-cool alto of Bud Shank - perfect for the easy, assured swing this album’s loaded with. Late-night music it is, and wonderful late-night music, at that (whether you’re alone or with that special Someone) - classy without being elitist, mellow without being soporific, sung with gentle conviction without melodrama or masochism.