can be said about an album when you love the lead but find the rest
uninteresting? That’s the rare dilemma faced when hearing Whitney James’
The Nature of Love, her debut on Stir Stick Music.
It’s not that the band disappoints. The vocalist is accompanied by a
talented supporting cast of Ingrid Jensen on trumpet and flugelhorn,
Joshua Wolff on piano, Matt Clohesy on bass and Jon Wikan on drums and
percussion. For their part, the musicians do their jobs admirably and, at
So what’s the problem? Maybe it’s the set selection. Nine standards from
the “American Songbook,” most of which have been covered and covered
again, so that anything short of an off-the-beaten path presentation will
leave one searching for something positive to say. Maybe it’s the
arrangements. They’re all pretty straightforward, leaving James and her
accompaniment to win listeners with the delicate balance of individual
voice and coloring within the lines.
Jensen’s solo on “Whisper Not,” a classic by Benny Golson and Lorraine
Feather, is one of those instrumental jewels. Likewise, Clohesy and Wikan
perform a duet that’s one of a handful of moments when the instruments
Despite the shortcomings, James comes through brilliantly. Her rich alto
is like a hybrid of Corinne Drewery (Swing Out Sister) and Janis Siegel
(The Manhattan Transfer). Her range is good, and she easily moves from a
powerful piece like Jerome Kern and Ira Gershinw’s “Long Ago and Far Away”
to a tranquil ballad, like Abbey Lincoln’s “My Love Is You.”
The Nature of Love is a matter of interest. The music is good, but
perhaps not good enough if you’ve heard multiple recordings of these
songs. James’ performance is solid, and definitely worth listening to.
With better arrangements or original material, she can easily stand out.
Unfortunately, these conventional arrangements make the album quite
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