Joni James' double-barrel talents as a consistent hitmaker, coupled with her enormous stylistic versatility, continually allowrd the artist an opportunity to expand her musical horizons. On My Favorite Things (1964), the vocalist bops and fluently belts through a dozen Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, and Oscar Hammerstein II penned standards, with light and jazzy arrangements. As popular music began to swing away from heavy orchestration and toward smaller and lighter backing combos, so too were artists such as James reflecting that shift. The 'songbook' concept allows a musician (primarily a vocalist) to thematically subtext a collection with like subject matter, or in this case common composers. James is backed by a quintet conducted and arranged by Paul Smith (piano) -- whose credits include extensive work with Ella Fitzgerald. Smith provides some syncopated and well-developed interjections and counterpoint to James' luminous and expressive vocals. She likewise exudes a maturity and sophistication that places her in a rare class of vocalists -- such as Peggy Lee and Rosemary Clooney -- who are effortlessly able to cross from the more traditional pop balladry to the decidedly modern takes on the exact same material. While each performance garners its own respective merit, there is a handful that truly defines the essence of this effort. Among the more stellar interpretations are the bouncy takes on "The Gentleman Is A Dope," "A Wonderful Guy," as well as the breezy title track. The same can be said for the elegant and understated "Some Enchanted Evening," as well as the tastefully orchestrated "A Fellow Needs A Girl" and "The Sound Of Music." In 2002, the Collectors' Choice reissue label paired My Favorite Things with another 'songbook' title, Joni James Sings The Gershwins as a CD two-fer.
Share this page