Chris Spector, Midwest Record
“Obviously Conner knows how to get to me. She makes no excuses or apologies for being a broad and knows how to be a thrush in the most classic sense of the style. A solid swinger with the chops to draw a pack of all-star, first call jazzbos to help her realize her vision, this is just what a real jazz vocal fan wants to hear. Killer stuff throughout, she mixes some Frish with some Trane with stuff from the classic song book that’s been kind of overlooked. A winning date throughout, this is a golden look at how it used to be when things were done right. Well done.”
Brent Black, CriticalJazz.com
“I am known to be brutal on the tightly clustered sorority known as the female jazz singer. You never get a second chance to make a first impression but you can’t judge a book by looking at the cover! The play on her name and cover art for Cat House from Cat Conner don’t work for me. Cat Conner doesn’t need a gimmick, her pristine voice and impeccable timing are skills that far outshine some of her contemporaries that might be slightly more familiar to the fan of traditional jazz vocals.
Cat House are a somewhat autobiographical series of uh, “cat tales” of personal experiences told through an eclectic selection of recordings that are banged out by an A list band. Every year I imagine all female jazz vocalists meeting in a secret location to decide on the tunes they will be recording, leaving the critic to wade through 25 different versions of Cole Porter’s greatest hits. Not here, Conner goes deep catalog with “Everything I Love / Everything I Desire” which is a rare Porter gem. The riff on the Duke Ellington tune “Star Crossed Lovers” is fresh and exciting while the classic “What A Little Moonlight Can Do” brings the swing home.
If you are a little tired of the predictable and are looking to go deep, Cat House is uh…”purrfect!”
Doug Boynton, Girlsingers.com
“If you’re hooked in the first ten seconds or so, you’ll stick around for the rest of the song. That’s my experience. So, hooked I was – first by John Chiodini’s slick guitar on the first few bars, then by Cat Conner’s luxurious vocal, then by her effortless way with the lyric, on the first track, “Everything I Love/Everything I Desire.”
I kept sticking around, and things just got better and better.
The whole album has an easy aura of a bunch of pros having fun, and a band that sounds bigger than they are. Mr. Chiodini, who also wrote most of the arrangements, is joined by Gene Cipriano on reeds, Tom Ranier on piano, drummer Joe LaBarbera, Chuck Berghofer on bass, Ron Stout on trumpet, and Dick Cat ConnerNash on trombone.
Favorites include the classic “What A Little Moonlight Can Do,” and a little-heard Cahn-Van Heusen tune, “Come On Strong.”
Refreshingly straight-ahead, and highly recommended.”
Steve Cerra, Jazz Profiles
Check out Cat’s jazz profile
Paula Edelstein, AXS
In Cat House (Cat Tales Records, 1011), Los Angeles-based jazz singer Cat Conner chronicles many of the trials and tribulations that a lifetime imposes. She hasn’t lived a perfect life. She has regrets. But that’s from a lifetime of taking chances, making decisions, and trying not to be frozen. The only thing that she can do with her regrets is understand them. And that she does on Cat House, the 13-track project during which she shares many of her innermost secrets and life experiences as musical metaphors that close and settle old matters and open new areas of thought. She is accompanied by her long-time friends and collaborators which include many of the most in-demand musicians on the West Coast such as John Chiodini on guitar; Gene Cipriano on clarinet and bass clarinets, tenor and bass oboes; Tom Ranier on piano; Chuck Berghofer on bass; Joe LaBarbera on drums; Ron Stout on trumpet; Dick Nach on trombone; Stephanie O’Keefe on French Horn; and Bob Carr on bassoon, bass clarinet and alto flute.
Beginning with Cole Porter’s “Everything I Love/Everything I Desire” Cat Conner captures the imaginative and melodic ideas Porter’s song features which is complemented by a memorable guitar solo by John Chiodini. Her selection of jazz and pop standards continues with Billy Strayhorn’s “Handsome Man (Pretty Girl)” a heartfelt ballad that has a classical tonality with its stellar horn arrangement, flute solo and romantic triadic progressions. “Sans Souci” is Conner’s re-interpretation of the Peggy Lee classic and here she guides the listener through her vocal fluency that challenges the listener to become a part of the variety of moods underlined by Gene “Cip” Cipriano’s haunting bass oboe lines. Great song.
Her updated version of John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” (with lyrics) rethinks the basic principles of this great jazz gem and its unique character as a vocal offering. As seen through her voice-leading rendition, Cat Conner’s musicality and sheer common sense interpretation makes this song accessible to a new generation of Coltrane’s fans.
Cat Conner’s voice is romantic and contemporary, dream as well as sexy. The music she has chosen for Cat House is heartfelt, filled with new discoveries as well as revisions of some of your favorite songs. They not only afford the listener with an account of why music matters not only to musicians but to all of us. Overall, it is a powerful offering as to why her identifications as a woman and as a post-bop jazz singer inflect her work. Check it out.”
Ann Alex, Bebopspokenhere.com
“This is a very enjoyable CD of quality jazz singing and skilled playing, and it is a bit different from the offerings of jazz standards on other discs. Forget the often sung Summertime and Cry Me A River – here are love songs which you don’t hear so often, such as Throw Me Away (Michael Dees), and a Cole Porter tune with words written by the singer. A track list will be the best way to describe the CD.
1/ Everything I Love/Everything I Desire is the Cole Porter track, with a quirky verse, sung with a sultry tone and lively improvisation on the tune, and a skilled guitar solo.
2/ Handsome Man (Pretty Girl) A slow song of longing, featuring the horns, which the singer describes as being ‘cradled’ by the horns – a good illustration.
3/ Sans Souci Lyrics by Peggy Lee, with an eastern sound on the bass oboe.
4/ Giant Steps, a Coltrane bebop tune, with an effective piano solo.
5/ Throw Me Away A clever lilting tune to a song about deceived love, featuring clarinet and a steady groove from the others.
6/ Remind Me (Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern) Luscious horns and steady piano chords, to accompany a witty song of love gone wrong, eg ‘Although I adore you/ remind me to ignore you.’
7/ Baltimore Oriole This singer does sexy, sophisticated songs well, especially this one about a smooth talker, ‘I’d like to ruffle his plumage’, which features a yearning trumpet.
8/ Heart’s Desire A happy love song with a Latin beat
9/ Wishing On The Moon A love song about longing with drums and piano
10/ You’re Driving Me Crazy A more usual standard, with the verse, horns, and a walking bass, and a definite 1930’s feel.
11/ Come On Strong, More saucy lyrics which this singer is well-suited to because of her sultry, ‘dry’ tonal qualities.
12/ What A Little Moonlight Can Do This opens with just voice and piano, then the whole band steams along.
13/ People Say (Song For Rob) A very surprising way to round off the CD. Cat Conner’s own song about what it felt like to be separated from the baby she gave up for adoption. (They’ve now been reunited). Heartfelt singing, the story is told simply, just voice and guitar.
This singer hales from Toronto but is now based in Los Angeles, and this is her second CD. She has performed with some of Canada’s most well-known jazz musicians. The CD is available on Cat Tales Records, catalogue number CT1011.”
Glenn Daniels, Thejazzpage.com
“Singer Cat Conner has a very soothing delivery that makes listening a joy. Her latest effort, Cat House is a nice selection of mostly off-the-beaten-path tunes from the likes of Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields, Peggy Lee, Alan Broadbent and Dave Frishberg, Meredith d’Ambrosio and Michael Dees. Conner also contributes a composition to the mix. The songs here are well constructed with great musicianship from a lineup, which includes among its talented ranks, Tom Ranier on piano, John Chiodini on guitar, Chuck Berghofer on bass, Ron Stout on trumpet, Dick Nash on trombone and Joe LaBarbarera on drums. There’s a great chemistry and trust between the band and vocalist that translates into a really well done recording.”
Joe Lang, Jersey Jazz
“Despite the playful title, CAT CONNER’s new album Cat House (Cat Tales – 1011) is an exploration of the ups and downs that are experienced as life passes. Conner is a terrific singer who has pretty much confined her performing to the Los Angeles scene. For this 13-song outing, she has surrounded herself with a varying complement of musicians chosen from among Gene Cipriano and Bob Carr on a range of reed instruments, Ron Stout on trumpet, Dick Nash on trombone, Stephanie O’Keefe on French horn, John Chiodini on guitar, Tom Ranier on piano, Chuck Berghofer on bass and Joe LaBarbera on drums. Conner does full justice to this eclectic collection of tunes that include “Everything I Love/Everything I Desire,” “Handsome Man,” “San Souci,” “Giant Steps,” “Throw Me Away,” “Remind Me,” “Baltimore Oriole,” “Heart’s Desire,” “Wishing on the Moon,” “You’re Driving Me Crazy,” “Come on Strong,” “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” and “People Say (Song for Rob).” Many of these will be new to most listeners, but Conner will quickly make them seem like old friends. The final selection is an intensely personal piece that Conner wrote about her son. Her liner notes give a nice insight into each selection, and make you understand their relevance to her goals in putting together this program. As I prepare to watch Game 7 of the World Series, I can state with confidence that Cat Conner has hit a home run with this album.”
Michael C. Bailey, Allaboutjazz.com
“West Coast Vocalist Cat Conner’s debut recording, Cat Tales (Rhombus Records, 2012) was a critical highlight vocal recording of the year. Conner’s grace and sophistication come from the same school that produced Shirley Horn, Rebecca Parris and Patti Wicks. She is a master of the slow ballad and that may be the least of her considerable talents as expressed on the present Cat House.
Conner’s song choice for Cat House was measured and forward thinking. It reflects the singer’s deep knowledge of popular vocal music, as well as, infusing the essence of the unavoidable life experiences that shape us into the canon of the Great American Songbook. On than note, it was once opined that “standards” were standard because of their timeless application in life. One must grow into them to understand, internalize and then recreate them as lessons and witnesses. Conner’s true oeuvre is that she has done exactly this to a measure of perfection met by few other singers.
Conner touts Cat House as a deeply emotional and personal project, where she bends thirteen relatively underperformed pieces to her vocal and intentional will, making them tell her story, thereby resolving the good with the bad in a life well lived. She deftly dispatches Cole Porter’s “Everything I Love” with the addition of her own lyrics (“Everything I Desire”) over John Chiodini’s plush and expressive guitar. She runs with Chiodini’s arrangement of Sonny Burke’s “Sans Souci,” almost purring the Peggy Lee lyrics around Gene Cipriano’s bass oboe, which sounds oddly perfect in the mix.
Pianist Tom Ranier sets into motion Chiodini’s provocative Latin arrangement of John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” with lyrics penned by friends Meredith d’Ambrosio and Ron Hurston. The song has an overall love-humid feel seasoned with just the right sensual tension. Ranier plays with a carefully tethered slow burn that propels the song languidly and with intent. Conner’s voice is perfectly balanced throughout, informed by a life of experience and a future of hope and happiness. This is an album about turning corners and coming out on top.”
Robert Nicosia, Musicmanblog.com
“Jazz Vocalist Cat Conner has released a new CD that all lovers of Jazz singing need to acquire. I was not familiar with Cat Conner until I received the new new CD with a request to review it. The first thing that got my attention was the playlist of songs Cat had picked for this CD. She includes an in-depth explanation of why each song was chosen which also explains why she sings with such a great understanding of the lyrics. Each song links to a part of Cat’s life experience both from the past to present day. A lot of serious thinking was done by Cat to develop this playlist and the results will please anyone that loves a singer who understands how to transform words into an emotional experience for the listener. Cat has a wonderful voice and performs perfectly whether a swing song, ballad, blues or Latin groove. She is simply a seasoned and skilled professional Jazz singer!
Being the seasoned Jazz singer that she is, Cat has selected an outstanding cast of supporting musicians.
I also want to add that I was delighted to find that Palm Springs resident, Michael Dees, has one of his great songs on this CD, “Throw Me Away”. Michael is a wonderful singer and even better songwriter whose lyrics are always new, clever and deliver an emotional message.”
Jack Bowers, Allaboutjazz.com
“On Cat House, the follow-up to her superb debut album, Cat Tales, California-based vocalist Cat Conner shows again that she has the astuteness and chops to leave many other contemporary jazz vocalists floundering in her wake and gasping for air. This time around, Conner has chosen a baker’s dozen of what she calls her “lucky tunes,” and she gives each one the sort of eloquent reading that should entice the perceptive listener to revisit them time and again.
While on ballads there’s an occasional hint of Jeri Southern in Conner’s sultry voice and delivery, there’s no point in making comparisons, as Conner’s personality and intonation are distinctly her own. She has also mastered Rule No. 1 in producing a captivating vocal album: that is, to surround the headliner with the finest musicians in the neighborhood. On Cat House they include pianist Tom Ranier, bassist Chuck Berghofer, drummer Joe LaBarbera and (on various numbers) guitarist (and arranger) John Chiodini, woodwind specialist Gene Cipriano, trumpeter Ron Stout, trombonist Dick Nash, French hornist Stephanie O’Keefe and handyman Bob Carr (bassoon, bass clarinet, alto flute).
The vibrant opener, Cole Porter’s “Everything I Love,” is deftly blended with a more spontaneous lyric, “Everything I Desire,” a semi-scat riff by Chiodini on which Conner ad libs freely. The mood is more pensive on Billy Strayhorn’s “Pretty Girl,” transposed by Conner into “Handsome Man,” which precedes the nebulous “Sans Souci” (lyric by Peggy Lee) and John Coltrane’s jazz classic “Giant Steps” (lyric by Meredith d’Ambrosio and Ron Hurston). Michael Wayne Deese’ “Throw Me Away” and Jerome Kern / Dorothy Fields’ “Remind Me” are seldom-heard gems given new luster by Conner who also brings out the best in Hoagy Carmichael’s incisive “Baltimore Oriole,” Alan Broadbent’s rhythmic “Heart’s Desire” (lyric by Dave Frishberg) and D’Ambrosio’s even-tempered “Wishing on the Moon.” If the lyrics aren’t always delovely, in Conner’s able hands they are at least coherent.
After a measured introductory verse, the pace quickens on the standard “You’re Driving Me Crazy” and the Billie Holiday favorite, “What a Little Moonlight Can Do,” which are sandwiched around Sammy Cahn / Jimmy van Heusen’s suggestive “Come on Strong.” While the finale, “People Say (Song for Rob),” is some steps removed from memorable, it is clearly sung from the heart, as Conner expresses the abiding love she has for her son, whom she unwillingly gave up for adoption before reuniting with him many years later. Quite a poignant finish to a second splendid album by the virtuosic Cat Conner.”
Thomas Cunniffe, Jazzhistoryonline.com
“An old bromide warns us against judging a book by its cover. Today, the same advice applies to CDs. I was not familiar with LA-based vocalist Cat Conner before receiving her new disc, “Cat House” in the mail. The gaudy cover led me to believe that I was about to be subjected to bawdy songs sung in the style of Frances Faye, i.e., shouted more than sung. When I put the disc in the player, I was surprised (and relieved) to find that Conner is a very sensitive vocalist who adroitly balances the needs of the music and the lyrics.
Conner’s liner notes make it clear that the album is autobiographical, and judging from the playlist, she’s had a pretty hip life. She opens with Cole Porter’s “Everything I Love” and incorporates an original vocalese line that is expertly sung, as well as a stunning reflection on Porter’s song. Next, she sings an adaptation of Billy Strayhorn’s lyrics to “Pretty Girl” (aka “The Star-Crossed Lovers”), and her understated vocal is cushioned with a lush woodwind ensemble arranged by David Angel. Most of the other settings are by the album’s guitarist and co-producer, John Ciodini, including a lounge-style version of Peggy Lee’s “Sans Souci” (with Gene Cipriano on bass oboe) and a sassy take on “Baltimore Oriole” (with Ron Stout on muted trumpet). On these two tracks, Conner shows her skill at emphasizing important lyrics while simultaneously creating stunning variations on the melody. While her voice shows signs of age and wear, her range is quite impressive, and apart from a few near-misses on intricate passages, she can make her voice communicate any idea she wants to convey. Conner is also a talented song detective, uncovering a dynamite Sammy Cahn/Jimmy Van Heusen rarity, “Come On Strong”, and a gifted songwriter, closing the set with a soulful duet with Ciodini on her tune “People Say”. Backed by a fine group of LA musicians including Cipriano, Stout, trombonist Dick Nash, pianist Tom Ranier, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Joe LaBarbera, “Cat House” overcomes its ill-advised title and distracting cover art to be a superb showcase for a talented vocalist.”
Mark S. Tucker, Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
“Singer Cat Conner is highly enamored of the romanticisms embodied in so much of the American Songbook, tunes singing back to her as she distills them in what are often semi-orchestral atmospheres—not that there’s an orchestra anywhere in sight, small or large, but instead a number of the best jazz cats in the business (John Chiodini, Tom Ranier, Joe LaBarbera, and etc.), gentz who really know how to fatten the sound while remaining decorous, delicate, and sensuous. Credit also the recording work of Paul Tavenner, who captured everything to perfection, collapsing the entire ambience down into a small little CD from whence it re-emerges full-blown. A singer can’t be just good and attract the caliber of side talent filling Cat House to overflowing (again: with superlatively rendered spare arrangements, chiefly by Chiodini, never crowding Conner), she has to be very very good, and Ms. Conner certainly is that.
This is old-timey art, a showcase of what our fathers and grandfathers were listening to and digging the hell out of, even if it required brushing back a tear from the manly eye every now and again (which our mothers and grandmothers were more than appreciative of). Ah, but, boys, wait ’til you hear her version of Remind Me, VERY much in line with Toni Tenille’s killer work, and you’ll soon find yourself falling behind pop and gramps, misty eyed and wistful for the girl-next-door you woo’ed and lost long ago. And remember when George Harrison covered Hoagy’s Baltimore Oriole? Yeah, it was good though way overblown, grandiose (and I do like grandiloquence!), but Conner brings the song back into the vibrant fresh-faced intimacy it was penned for.
The unusually erotic Come on Strong, a much neglected Cahn / van Heusen song, is covered, with Cat in the liner notes commenting that “[s]ometimes a dame just has to ask for what she wants”. Absolutely!, and maybe I can have her talk with an old girlfriend or two. Without any hint of brass whatsoever, Conner manages to mix down-home with classy wanton resulting in a seductively honest and forthright paean dripping with smiles and winks. Then What a Little Moonlight Can Do jumps into a bop boogie with Chiodini playing like a lightfingered Duke Robillard scatting across the frets, Cat encanting with élan and sweet vigor. She wrote one cut on Cat House and then co-wrote a track with Chiodini, but the rest is a menu of sparkling classics from an era when class and elegance held sway. In efforts like this one, it still does.”
Scott Janow, L.A. Jazz Scene
“Cat Conner is a joyful presence on the local jazz scene, always cheering on her fellow performers when she is in the audience. She is also a very good jazz singer, one who often teams up with the veteran reed master Gene Cipriano as Cat and Cip. A lot of thought and planning clearly went into Cat House (available from www.catconner.com) and it shows. Each of the 13 songs means a lot to the singer and she puts a lot of honest feeling and musicianship into this well-paced program. Among the many highlights are her vocalese on “Everything I Love,” her warm rendition of “Handsome Man” (based on Billy Strayhorn’s “Pretty Girl” which was originally based on Duke Ellington’s “Star Crossed Lovers”), the atmospheric “Sans Souci” (with Cip’s bass oboe), a slow version of “Giant Steps” (with Meredith D’Ambrosio’s memorable lyrics), “Heart’s Desire.” and a duet version of “People Say” with guitarist John Chiodini. But in reality each of the 13 concise performances are rewarding. In addition to Cat’s heartwarming vocals, there are many short solos from Chiodini and pianist Tom Ranier along with a few spots for Gene Cipriano on clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor and bass oboe and an appearance by trombonist Dick Nash on “You’re Driving Me Crazy.” Cat House is highly recommended, making one look forward to future Cat Conner recordings.”
George Harris, JazzWeekly.com
“Ah! A woman who sounds like a woman! Cat Conner’s got a warm and husky voice as well as a natural sense of swing. She teams up here with some of LA’s best musicians such as Tom Ranier/p, Joe LaBarbera/dr, John Chiodini/g, and Gene Cipriano/reeds for a cooking session of standards, obscurities and a few surprises. She can get playful as on “Wishing On The Moon” or get a bit feisty with LaBarbera on “What A Little Moonlight Can Do.” A nice little bass groove and oboe help Conner create a sense of mystery on “Sans Souci, but even better, she shows some moxie by doing a vocal version of Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.” Good call! Her sense of time is perfect on the easy swingers like “Eveything I Love/Everything I Desire,” showing she knows how to work a crowd, a song and an album. You’ll like this lady!”