Emi Takada shines on “Why Did I Choose You?”

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Japanese jazz vocalist, Emi Takada, has an unassuming, but forceful presence on her latest album, “Why Did I Choose You?” A collection of classics, “Why Did I Choose You?” finds Takada making the most out of the standards that classic music fans have come to love.

With a voice that lilts with pure expression, Takada’s persona is effervescent in a way that is not purely giddy, but lively with passion for the music she sings.

Two of the most outstanding tracks on “Why Did I Choose You?” are “It Might As Well Be Spring” and “Stormy Weather.”

Emi Takada, “It Might As Well Be Spring” and “Stormy Weather”

Takada’s approach to songs that are as beloved as these two is fresh. Her phrasing and her vocal qualities work to evince the persona of the song she is singing. Hearing her on “It Might As Well Be Spring” in which Takada’s vocal quality is gentle and her persona youthful, does not fully prepare listeners for her take on “Stormy Weather.”

On “It Might As Well Be Spring” Takada’s voice is light as it quickly picks through the metaphorical lyrics. She personifies spring and the surrounding instrumentation plays up that feeling of sunshine and flowers that Takada herself evokes with her vocal quality.

From the 1945 movie, “State Fair,” “It Might As Well Be Spring” has been done by Ella Fitzgerald among others, so Takada is taking on a bit of jazz history when she performs this song. But her version gives audiences another way to think of the song, and it does stand out on the recording.

“Stormy Weather” seems a bold choice. After the quick, light, crisp phrasing and pacing of “It Might As Well Be Spring,” Takada takes a bluesy turn singing a song about love gone wrong. A favorite among jazz vocalists and fans, Billie Holiday’s version is arguably the best known. But, Takada approaches the song in a heartfelt way. She doesn’t force her voice to be smoky. Instead, Takada takes each word and makes it into something that builds the overall mood. With a halting approach, Takada keeps the song bluesy. The soundscape with its rumbling bass, strident piano and shimmering drums heighten the mood.

With a recording history that dates back to 2011, Takada seems to be a risk-taker, but also a person who cares deeply about humanitarian concerns. She recorded an album early in her career, “My Little Cottage,” that aimed to teach children about getting along peacefully with people from other cultures. The proceeds of which were donated to organizations that help children in need, with a special emphasis on helping orphans.

Takada’s approach to jazz is big-hearted and unique. Her phrasing displays an authentic vulnerability that makes audiences want to hear more.

 

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