Whitney James – The Nature of Love – Damselfly Productions / Stir Stick Music, 50:51 *****:
Placing a jazz vocalist in front of a jazz quartet made up of a trumpet, piano, bass, and drums is bound to bring certain comparisons to mind. One of my all-time favorite albums is “Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown,” and it is about the same configuration as this new CD from Whitney James, “The Nature of Love.” I suppose this comparison is mostly superficial and is perhaps a disservice to this new effort. After all, talents like Vaughan and Brown are few and far between, but I have to say that Whitney James and crew acquit themselves very handily. They bring freshness and sincerity to the music that shines through and makes for a very pleasant and pleasurable listening experience.
James handles the vocals like an instrumentalist, varying the color and characteristics of her voice to match the song and the moment. Even though her voice shifts its sound nearly constantly, she never lets it distract from the lyrics. She balances the needs of her musical performance with the just-careful-enough enunciation of the words so that both come off sounding their best. There’s a deliberate and delightful artfulness to the singing that elevates James’ performance above the material. Though these are classic songs, like “Tenderly” and “The Very Thought of You,” she brings new interpretations to the table. James’ performance of “A Timeless Place” is frankly astounding—virtuosic and emotive at the same time.
Ingrid Jensen plays trumpet and flugelhorn on several tracks and her solos are fluid, inventive, and energetic. She’s a trumpeter to watch and is deserving of more spotlight time. When can we expect a solo album? [There are: "At Sea," on Artist Share. Also "Now As Then" with Gary Versace on B-3 – Justin Time…Ed.] Joshua Wolf is on piano and he is a perfect match to James and the material, bringing the right amount of drive and splashes of chords to move things along. He’s a tasteful player, and that perhaps sums up this entire effort. “The Nature of Love” is tasteful and carefully crafted out of love of the material and love of musical collaboration. Though Whitney James stands at the front of this ensemble and delivers an excellent and confident performance, she isn’t afraid to let them her collaborators shine. This is a solid effort from a new vocalist and I look forward to hearing more from her.
TrackList: 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
— Hermon Joyner