Whether it’s storming around as ‘Sally’ in You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, coming and going by bubble as the formerly known “Ga-linda” in Wicked, belting Hopelessly Devoted To You to a pie maker in Pushing Daisies, playing Nicole Kidman’s best friend in the film Bewitched or joyously singing P!NK’s Raise Your Glass in international television hit Glee, it’s fair to say Kristin Chenoweth’s career is truly remarkable. As a recording artist Chenoweth has covered country, Christian and Christmas music and as a follow up to her debut album Coming Home now releases The Art Of Elegance which is her first album of American Songbook Classics.
Kristin says “Elegance is a quality that I look for, in music and in life. It goes back deep within me. I’ve always felt that even a little girl from Oklahoma could still be elegant, not just in her musical tastes, but in the way she treats others, how she dresses. I love all kinds of music, but this repertoire has spoken to me my whole life. I remember learning some of this music as young as twelve, and thinking to myself that one day, I would get to perform it. Now here I am with a record dedicated to the melodies and lyrics of some of our greatest composers.”
In this album Chenoweth uses her beautiful interpretation skills to accomplish sublime versions of songs we know and love. She opens her album with Gershwin’s Someone to Watch Over Me and her use of breath beautifully expresses the urgency of longing this song needs to be successful, “There’s a somebody (breath) I’m longing to see…” She couples this with some well placed jazz licks and alternate melodic choices making the song fresh, totally her own and as if she was conversing rather than singing a well-loved song. Next highlight is Rodgers and Hart’s Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. One of my favourite American songbook selections, Chenoweth couples her sublime vocal with the natural rhythm of this song to create a delightful Bewitched with a powerful surprise vocal on the last verse that will have listeners rapt. Following this we are presented with Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart, a song sang famous by (all together now…) Judy Garland. Chenoweth enjoys a running double bass and swinging brass accompaniment as she delivers this timeless classic. A ‘rhapsody divine’ indeed. Next up is a song that’s been recorded by some of the greats, Fred Astaire, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and… Robbie Williams, You Can’t Take That Away From Me. Chenoweth adds air to her voice to give a lighter feel when singing this number and the results are brilliant. From listening, I really got the impression she had a lot of fun recording this song. Chenoweth then delivers a rousing rendition of Bacharach’s A House Is Not A Home, different from her previously recorded versions of this song. Bringing tears to my eyes, Chenoweth offered an emotionally powered performance that beautifully sits on this album. Lastly Chenoweth treats us to Smile. Another song that’s been recorded by many artists, Chenoweth achieves a very personal vocal that during the coda is brought down to almost a whisper that had me in tears all over again. Brava!
The Art Of Elegance brings together thirteen well-known classics from the American songbook with Chenoweth’s beautiful voice and the result is nothing but short of masterful. “It would be impossible for me not to sing. I never feel like I’m not working on my next record, my next concert, the next show… It never occurred to me not to record music that I love. Even if it’s on my own tape recorder. Even if it’s on my iPhone. Music is life for me.”
Reviewed by Stuart James
THE ART OF ELEGANCE is available now