While not Joni James' (vocals) first jazz outing, After Hours (1962) certainly holds its own as one of the more memorable entries in her voluminous MGM Records catalog. Under the direction of then-husband, Anthony Acquaviva, the artist adopted the jazz ethos of improvisation, creating music more or less "in the moment," recording each of the dozen sides on this LP with no overdubbing or studio trickery. The only caveat being the harmonica and support vocals on "I Almost Lost My Mind." They were added in post-production once the song had been chosen as a single and subsequently issued prior to the release of the full-length album. The raw nature helped replicate the instantaneous spontaneity of James' live shows, as she consistently packed houses from coast to coast. The backing combo boasts of a team of West Coast jazz icons, including Pete Jolly (piano), Howard Roberts (guitar), and Ralph Penna (bass). The percussive duties are split evenly between Shelly Manne (drums) and Milt Holland. They contribute considerably to the essence of After Hours' loose and liberated arrangements of material that are significantly complemented by James' effortless, yet entrancing intonations. The entire record has a decidedly sophisticated adult vibe, as heard on the breezy "Can't Get Out of This Mood," "Just One of Those Things," and "This Heart of Mine." These numbers provide a balance for the plaintive "Misty" and "I Didn't Know What Time It Was," both prominently featuring Roberts on acoustic guitar. In 2003, After Hours was coupled with another of James' jazzier long players, Like 3 O'Clock in the Morning (1963), on a two-fer CD as part of Collectors' Choice Music's extensive reissue campaign, which is making the artists' timeless MGM titles available again after more than 30 years.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer