James doesn’t just sing a tune,she creatively engages it. Every time she approaches a melody and a lyric, she finds a new way to phrase them, shape them, highlight a word or a few notes that shade the meaning and make the music richer. Her sense of time and pacing make her a consummate musician’s singer—she knows how to work with a band, instead of asking it to merely back her. Her supple alto voice wraps itself around a song like a sheer silk scarf. She sings with a bright clarity of tone, yet she colors her sound with earthy inflections, subtle squeezed notes, dark growls, and notes of soaring purity.
Her polished musicianship helps her interpret the best of American popular music as well as challenging originals of jazz composers rarely attempted by singers. The upper edge of her voice gently caresses “Tenderly,” highlighting the song’s romantic glow, then she matches trumpeter Jensen tone for tone with an instrumentalist’s full sound. She subjects “Long Ago and Far Away” to playful transformations, making the song her own without ever obscuring the composers’ original intent. She negotiates the transitions between Latin and swing beats on “How Deep Is the Ocean” with elegance, phrasing behind the beat at times to create an exquisite tension. And she remains unfazed by the tricky melody of “The Peacocks,” making the composition’s daunting contours sound graceful and natural.
It’s rare that a performer emerges fully formed on their first album. But Whitney James has the musicianship and deep emotional power of a mature artist. Whitney continues to tour and play in the US. She is currently working on her new CD project.
In 2012 Whitney was featured on Marian McPartland’s new show on NPR’s Piano Jazz Rising Stars, a nationally syndicated radio show on National Public Radio as one of the top 12 rising stars jazz artists worldwide. Here is a link to that feature about Whitney James on Piano Jazz Rising Stars: http://www.npr.org/2012/03/16/145639275/whitney-james-on-piano-jazz-rising-stars .
- The Nature of Love by Jakob Baekgaard
- The Nature Of Love by Bruce Lindsay
- The Nature of Love by Raul d'Gama Rose
Voice / vocals
Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson
The Nature of Love
Damselfly Productions/Stir Stick Music