CD Catchup, Part 4: Frances Lynne

Frances Lynne, Remember (SSJ).
Lynne.jpgOften discussed but seldom heard, Ms. Lynne is a charming singer. She worked with Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond and Norman Bates in 1948. Recalling their time with her at the Geary Cellar and the Band Box, all of them told me that they were moved by her clarity, phrasing, feeling and interpretation of lyrics. She went on to sing, but not record, with the Charlie Barnet and Gene Krupa bands and kept on singing after she married trumpeter John Coppola, a veteran of the Barnet, Stan Kenton and Woody Herman bands. Finally, in 1991, she recorded for their private label, Lark, with Coppola’s medium-sized orchestra, which included strings and French horn. The album had virtually no distribution when it was released in 1999 and still has little, but it has been nicely repackaged by the Japanese label SSJ and is available from at least one web site (click on the link in the title above).
Ms. Lynne includes the seldom-heard verses of several songs. In his liner note message, Brubeck tells her that at the Band Box “there were many times you gave me goosebumps.” It may have been singing like her treatment of the verses of Irving Berlin’s “Remember” and the Oscar Hammerstein’s-Jerome Kern song “Can I Forget You?” that affected him. The CD is all the more precious for the presence of a pair of rarities, Kern’s “The Touch of Your Hand” and Harry Warren’s “Spring Isn’t Everything,” beautifully sung by Ms. Lynne. The superb arrangements of a dozen classic songs are by Mike Abene, who also conducts. The classy bass and drums are by Bill Douglass and Eddie Marshall. Soloists are Abene on piano, trumpeters Coppola and Johnny Coles, tenor saxophonist John Handy and–on alto sax and clarinet–Herbie Steward, one of the original Four Brothers of the Woody Herman Second Herd. Their vigor complements Ms. Lynne’s restraint and mature wistfulness. For most of us, Frances Lynne’s singing was mythical. This CD brings it happily to life.
For an account of the Geary Cellar-Band Box milieu long before there was a Dave Brubeck Quartet, see Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond.

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