Whitney James’ gorgeous, lush The Nature of Love almost feels like an album of duets. Her velvet voice mingles beautifully with Ingrid Jensen’s impeccable trumpet and flugelhorn, formulating an easy, smooth combination that weaves through the record’s nine tracks.
The record also features pianist Joshua Wolff, bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Jon Wikan.
With her exploration of love and affection, James showcases soft, genuine understanding. She clearly gets it, purposely engaging every lyric with poise and richness. Better still, James knows how to live in the open spaces and steps back when necessary to provide the foreground to her band.
Through it all, James scales some truly incredible heights. She soars effortlessly through the high notes of ”A Timeless Place (The Peacocks),” handling the tricky melody with poise. Notes of such angle would be troublesome to most of today’s most gifted vocalists, but James handles it simply and elegantly.
She toys with the beat and swing of Latin and swing on “Long Ago and Far Away,” unleashing a swaying bit of music backed by Clohesy’s consistency.
But it’s when James joins her voice with Jensen’s instrument that really makes this record a thing of beauty.
Check out the interplay on “Whisper Not.” The quartet builds to an awesome opportunity for a solo and the rising tension almost makes things feel like they’re ready to slide off the rails, but Jensen reigns it in with a classy, dignified solo that matches James’ pace. The vocal fun towards the close of the song makes it more than worth a few repeat spins.
The truly compelling thing about this whole arrangement of songs is that this is James’ debut. Having studied with Jay Clayton at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, James’ pedigree for the art isn’t in doubt. But her true command of creating an album, not just a series of songs, is what really captivates. She has that intangible element of performance that cannot be taught in any school.
The Nature of Love is a tender, cohesive, fascinating exploration. It’s a journey worth taking again and again. Highlighted by the beautifully impeccable interplay between two gifted, tremendous artists, this is one record I won’t soon forget.