With a top-notch big band right out of the Count Basie tradition, singer James Darren croons with Frank Sinatra’s phrasing and a natural timbre ideally suited for entertaining the masses. Reprising last season’s Star Trek: Deep Space Nine character Vic Fontaine, Darren swings with charm and credibility. Aren’t all singers actors? Singing comes naturally to the 63-year-old singer/actor/director whose acting career includes featured roles in several Gidget movies, The Gene Krupa Story (starring Sal Mineo), Westerns, science fiction, and mature drama. As a fully interactive hologram on television last season, Darren was quite convincing as a 1960’s Rat Pack casino entertainer. Although his role loses some in translation from visual (film) to audio (CD), his strength and energy shine through and you can "hear" that big smile on Darren’s face as he watches the crowd.
The supporting cast for This One’s From The Heart includes some of the best current stars of Hollywood behind the scenes. Alan Broadbent’s arrangement of "Sophisticated Lady," for piano, bass, guitar, and drums, adds Warren Luening’s warm muted trumpet in a friendly interlude. Luening shines again on "The Way You Look Tonight" with flugelhorn, as he takes the melody from Darren, remakes it, and then shares with the singer as they go out. Pete Christlieb’s interlude on "I’ve Got the World on a String" exhibits his trademark bent notes and emotional outbursts. The saxophonist is featured again on "Dancing in the Dark" and "Here’s to the Losers," where he’s joined by a pleasant Ron Eschete solo spot. Sammy Nestico’s arrangement of "Satin Doll" sweeps up all the instrumental voices at once but ensures that the singer is featured clearly and in a good light. Just like the spotlights and makeup artists who can make or break a scene, Darren’s band and orchestra provide the best aural environment for him. Other big band tracks include "Night And Day," "I’ve Got You Under My Skin" and "You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You." Patrick Williams’ arrangement of "That Old Black Magic" swirls energetically around a solid unison riff from George Roberts and Chuck Berghofer. Strings color "The Way You Look Tonight," "I’ve Got the World On A String," "All The Way," and a few others. All this stellar support puts Darren’s phrasing and energetic swinging approach in its best light. Hopefully, his next jazz albums will also include this kind of all-star support.