Joni James

Joni Swings Sweet

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By the time Joni James issued Joni Swings Sweet (1959), she had already become one of America's top pop vocalists. After years of recording secular and the occasional sacred side, she and then-husband and musical director Anthony Acquaviva convinced MGM Records to release a long-player of up-tempo and jazz-oriented numbers. Here, James showcases her inimitably lyrical interpretations of a dozen well-known popular standards backed by both a full orchestra as well as a smaller combo. This is much in keeping with the same variety that she utilized during her legendary live shows -- which were more often than not performed to standing-room-only crowds from coast to coast as well as abroad. The album kicks off with a blast as James bops her way through a high-energy reading of "Somebody Loves Me," which sets the tone for the entire effort. That is not to say that every number is given as lively an interpretation. However, from the laid-back and breezy "Sentimental Journey" and "Too Marvelous for Words" to the lush and opulent "The Blue Room" and "It Had to Be You," the singer is at full command and unquestionably riveting throughout. Acquaviva's arrangements and choice of material perfectly capture the essence of James' powerfully sublime musicality. In 2003, Collectors' Choice Music paired Joni Swings Sweet with the equally enchanting Bossa Nova Style (1965) on a two-fer CD as part of their reissue campaign of James' classic MGM titles.

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