Whitney James: The Nature Of Love (2010)
The Nature Of Love is singer Whitney James' debut, although the maturity and sophistication of her performance makes this hard to believe. Across an intriguing set of songs James demonstrates an impressive vocal range and a command of phrasing and intonation that usually come only with years of experience.
James' voice is expressive and sensual, and apart from its range it also has real strength and power. At times, when James is singing in her upper register, this power translates to a slight harshness in the voicefor example, during "In April." But such moments are relatively rare; James' version of Abbey Lincoln's "My Love is You" is masterful, and her upper register vocals are genuinely affecting.
There are familiar standards here. Ray Noble's "The Very Thought of You" is particularly fine, with a seductive vocal from James and some lovely piano from Joshua Wolff. But to the singer's credit, she also interprets lesser known songs, the most striking being Jimmy Rowles and Norma Winstone's "A Timeless Place (The Peacocks)." James' version sticks close to the arrangement and tempo of Winstone's original, a challenge for any vocalist. Her vocal performance sounds less relaxed than Winstone's, but it's still a fine interpretation of this beautiful, sad song.
James receives strong and sympathetic backing from all of the musicians. Ingrid Jensen guests on trumpet and flugelhorn, adding color to the arrangements with her measured and sympathetic playing. James shows a real jazz sensibility in her vocal style, a prime example being the introduction to Benny Golson and Leonard Feather's "Whisper Not," where she weaves her voice around the freeform playing of bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Jon Wikan.
The Nature Of Love is a great example of an ensemble vocal album, with all the performerssinger and playersresponding to each other to create a real gem. A fine singer and interpreter of songs, James is unafraid of taking risks with challenging materialrisks which pay off on this impressive debut.
Track Listing: Tenderly; Whisper Not; A Timeless Place (The Peacocks); Long Ago and Far Away; My Love is You; The Very Thought of You; How Deep is the Ocean; Be Anything; In April.
Personnel: Whitney James: vocals; Ingrid Jensen: trumpet and flugelhorn (1-3, 6, 7); Joshua Wolff: piano; Matt Clohesy: bass; Jon Wikan: drums.
Record Label: Damselfly Productions/Stir Stick Music