Irene Kral

Irene KralThe previous post was about lilacs, not Irene Kral, but it brought comments clearly indicating that Ms. Kral (1932-1978) is far from forgotten. She is forgotten least of all by her daughters, Jodi and Melissa. Jodi Burnett
sent one of theDorough, Melissa & Irene Kral comments. Melissa is seen on the right in her mother’s arms as Irene rehearses with Bob Dorough. This was in Chicago in the mid-1960s.

A vocalist admired for the purity of her voice and her musicianship, Irene was the sister of Roy Kral of the Jackie and Roy vocal duo. Her career began in her hometown of Chicago when she was 16. Early on, she worked briefly with the Woody Herman and Chubby Jackson bands and later with Maynard Ferguson, Stan Kenton and Herb Pomeroy. In the early 1960s she was featured with Shelly Manne and his Men during the period when the drummer owned the Los Angeles club Shelly’s Manne Hole. In a kinescope from Frank Evans’ television show Frankly Speaking, she demonstrates the control and expressiveness that made her one of the best slow singers ever. Evans takes care of a little program business on his way to introducing her, but she’s worth waiting for. Her accompanists are Manne, drums; Russ Freeman, piano; and Monty Budwig, bass. Over closing credits, you also see and hear Conte Candoli, trumpet, and Richie Kamuca, tenor saxophone.

Toward the end of her short life, Ms. Kral had a productive musical partnership with Alan Broadbent. Their albums, including this one, remain high on anyone’s list of singer-pianist collaborations.

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  1. Joe Lang says

    Thanks, Irene was indeed a special singer. I fortunately got to see her at Michael’s Pub in NYC, and she was a delight..

    By the way, here is a link to David Allyn singing “Forgetful”:

    This is not his version with Boyd Raeburn, but a later recording.

    • Bill Crow says

      Thanks, Joe.. I used to have this on a 78, and am glad to hear it again.

  2. says

    Thanks for sharing that clip from Frankly Jazz. You nailed it when you said this demonstrates “the control and expressiveness that made her one of the best slow singers ever.” Her voice and delivery draw you into the song; it’s never a display of vocal technique awash in a sea of melisma. Too bad so many jazz shows on tv used strange camera angles, shadows, reflections (a left-handed bass player? – it’s a left handed piano, too? …oh, it’s a mirror! ). But the audio was good, much better than one mic on a camera 30 feet away that we get so much of on YouTube these days. Thanks again for another glimpse of Irene Kral.

  3. Don Conner says

    Thanks, Doug, for the Irene Kral video posting. I’ve been following her since her first record entitled The Band and I on Capitol in 1958, featuring the Herb Pomeroy band with arrangements by Ernie Wilkins and Al Cohn. After that, Ms. Kral really blossomed into a great singer until her death from cancer at 46. I missed her then and I miss her soulful singing now. She was one of the greats.

  4. says

    Doug,thanks for the Irene clip.She was not only a great vocalist ,but someone
    who handled her health problems in a way we should all have great respect for. I
    attended one of her last live performances in Half MoonBay, CA, and It was a real tribute to
    her artistry and devotion to her craft. It was, however, difficult for her to perform, but she was great, we all loved the performance and her.

  5. jeffsultanof says

    Ms. Kral sang like an angel. One of my treasured memories is my boss at Warner Bros. Music playing Irene’s album Better than Anything every day for about six months, sometimes twice a day. It was always a joy to hear. I would love to have worked with her.

  6. says

    Nice to hear Irene’s version of this tune. The lyric was written by my friend Jack Segal, who saw me through some early hard times when I first came to NYC. David Allyn’s recording of it was a classic.

    • Alan Broadbent says

      Bill, one of my secret stash of ballads that I want to keep for myself is Jack’s “I Keep Going Back to Joe’s” which I learned many years ago in NZ from a great Nat Cole/Gordon Jenkins album “Where Did Everyone Go”. In fact, all the ballads on that wonderful album belong to me!! I’d like to hear you talk about Jack sometime.

      • Bill Crow says

        When I first moved to NYC, Dave Lambert introduced me to Jack Segal, and he became a good friend. He and his wife had an apartment in the east 50s, and I often dropped by to visit. There was often something interesting going on there… we would read plays, sing, listen to records, and visit with Jack’s other friends, who also often dropped by. I met Harry Belafonte and Tony Bennett there long before either one of them got their careers going. Other songwriters like Roy Alfred and Alan Jeffries were often there. Jack bubbled over with enjoyment among his friends, and loved to play his songs for us. He encouraged me when I was just getting started in the city, providing both moral support and an occasional meal when I was in need of both. I’m forever indebted to him.

      • Jim Brown says

        Mark Murphy, another of my very favorite singers, recorded “Going Back To Joe’s” on his Nat Cole tribute session, and has often included it in his sets. It’s also nice to see Joe Lang’s reference to David Allyn. Alto saxophonist Lennie Druss, one of the first call Chicago studio gang, turned me on to David back in the 70s, and I subsequently got to hear him a couple of times.

  7. Mike Harris says

    Her version of “Don’t Look Back” (with Alan Broadbent on the Where is Love? album) is easily the most memorable vocal ballad performance I’ve ever been privileged to hear. Says it all in about 3 minutes.

  8. Bill Benjamin says

    Thanks for the post, Doug. Being a native Chicagoan like Irene, I feel a special connection to her. She was just a superb vocalist. The Choice label recordings she did with Alan Broadbent are among the prized items in my CD collection. Anyone who hasn’t heard those should do so immediately.

  9. Andy Sechrist says

    Thank you for that wonderful clip. If only we had such great television programming available today. Alan Broadbent’s work with Irene Kral is among my favorites. Ms. Kral’s performance of “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” on the A Time for Love album is so beautiful, and so seasonally appropriate this week.

  10. says

    Irene married Joe Burnett and he was around the North Texas campus, when I was there. Joe played trumpet in the big bands so I would visit them whenever I hit Chicago. So, I knew Irene before I’d even met Roy Kral and Jackie. Irene always asked me for another song and she recorded many of my songs long before other singers started singing them. One day she kept badgering me until I played her an early song of mine that I thought no one would ever sing. She recorded that song soon afterwards, with Alan Broadbent on piano. It became a standard and is in one of Sher’s fakebooks – “Love Came On Stealthy Fingers.”

    Thanks, Irene and thank you, Doug, for the fine reminiscence of this fine singer.

    • Red Sullivan says

      For those, like myself, in thrall to the 2 duet albums on the Choice record label with the great Alan Broadbent, may I point out one other masterpiece of Ms. Kral’s that may be the the very equal of “Where Is Love?” (I believe the greater of the 2 duet albums). So THAT’S already saying a lot, but maybe this lesser known album could even be the greatest document of them all? No coincidence that we also have Mr. Broadbent’s amazingly eloquent and sensitive presence and profound musicianship again but, rather, in quartet this time, Fred Atwood’s bass, Nick Ceroli’s drums and Emil Richards’ vibes added. It’s called Kral Space and it’s a stone gem. A diamond. Yet, I believe, hardly known. Too bad! Kral Space as a composer. I’m imagining Carmen McRae must have picked up on “Love Came On Stealthy Fingers” from Ms. Kral. I do know Carmen and Sarah were avowed Kral fanatics, and would always show up for her performances at Donte’s in Los Angeles. Ms. McRae’s “Love Came On Stealthy Fingers” may be grittier, certainly profound, but no less so than Ms. Kral’s great performance.

      Apart from this particular stone iron plunger of an album, I would also look to an amazing Shelly Manne orchestral/big band version of “My Fair Lady” with Jack Sheldon and Ms. Kral starring (maybe Mr. Sheldon steals the show; he’s so great vocally, so charismatic, on this one, although Ms. Kral IS PRISTINE). I believe the brilliant orchestrations were John Williams’ work if I’m remembering correctly. Also memorable (and personally dear to me) are the truly fantastic Charlie Kennedy alto solos from “the quintet within a band,” as this album was conceived. It was the great Don Sleet in the Manne & His Men Quintet trumpet solo chair on this great My Fair Lady LP, one of Sleet’s very few recordings.

      My other Irene Kral recorded highlight would be her justifiably anthologized version of MF“Moonlight In Vermont” while she was with Maynard. WOW! (And not least for Maynard’s own out-chorus on the melody, too, as I seem to recall).

      Beyond those personal preferences, may I ask about Joe Burnett? Really, the only only thing I know is the haunting, remarkable track called “This Life We’ve Led” where his trumpet truly equaled the plaintive, moving emotional intelligence of Irene Kral’s, his wife’s, music. I’d love to know more about this treasured track. Can anyone say was it from a session that was only partly completed, or an issued album, or under the musical directorship of whom?

      (It was from this album—DR).

      Maybe the time has come for Irene Kral to be revised upward critically. The claim, thus, may be that she should be considered the peer of such as Ms. McRae, and so that puts her in the rarefied top five or ten of them all. (I have heard certain particular great musicians make this claim for her already, yes).
      Anyway, the evidence is there on record The literature exists.

      PS: Apart from wanting to add that Ms. Kral, like Rosemary Clooney, is also a great reference for not just Mr. Dorough’s amazingly rich songbook, but for Dave Frishberg’s too, I can’t help telling all Dorough or Frishberg fans to go listen to New York’s great Carol Fredette, and to cop her Sings Dorough/Frishberg” album. For me she’s another personal enthusiasm – not at all similar to Ms. Kral, but, my god, Carol Fredette is one of the hippest most truly musicianly singers in all of jazz. Again, great repertoire distinguishes her, but there are only so many singers in this strata of excellence – now or ever!