Marni Nixon, a 1980s Grammy nominee for her recordings of music by Arnold Schoenberg and Aaron Copland, is known in the popular realm for her interpretations of the songs of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Lerner & Loewe, and Bernstein and Sondheim as she substituted for the non-singing stars of the film adaptations of The King and I, My Fair Lady, and West Side Story in the 1950s and '60s. Those songwriters are somewhat younger than Jerome Kern (although Oscar Hammerstein II was a frequent Kern collaborator before the onset of his partnership with Richard Rodgers), but with her classical background, Nixon may have more affinity for him than for them. Certainly, a soprano who has trod the boards of opera houses is unlikely to have trouble with the operetta songs in Kern's repertoire, such as "You Are Love" from Show Boat. In fact, she might be expected to struggle more with the lyrical interpretation of the more vaudeville-oriented numbers such as the lusty "Let's Begin," but she turns convincingly saucy and rhythmic getting out such Otto Harbach lines as "We have necked/Till I'm wrecked/Won't you tell me what you expect?" Working with pianist/arranger Lincoln Mayorga, a string quartet, one reed, a harp, and a rhythm section, she makes the most of chamber arrangements of music more often heard with a full orchestra. And she and Mayorga can be playful, too, notably in "Swing Time Medley," which combines three songs from the Astaire-Rogers film Swing Time, "Waltz in Swing Time," "A Fine Romance," and "Pick Yourself Up," by deftly shifting from one time signature to another. Such novel ideas lend variety to the set, but it is at its strongest in the singer's treatment of Kern's great ballads "The Song Is You," "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," "Long Ago and Far Away," and "They Didn't Believe Me."
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann