May Okita

Art Of Life
(Origin)

Tokyo-born May Okita spent several years living in Los Angeles, where she studied clinical psychiatry at UCLA and sang in area jazz clubs. Shortly before she returned to Tokyo, Okita recorded Art Of Life in a trio with pianist Josh Nelson and guitarist Larry Koonse.

She has a pleasant voice, obviously loves the material here and takes most of the melodies pretty straightahead, other than scatting a bit during the closing vamp of “Let’s Face The Music And Dance” and singing wordlessly on Duke Ellington’s “Blue Rose.” And while “Blue Rose” and Randy Newman’s “When She Loved Me” aren’t covered often, and “Art Of Life” was co-written by Okita and Nelson, all of the other songs have been recorded countless times. These renditions, despite the sincere treatments, don’t stand out from the crowd; Okita doesn’t take any real chances in her singing. Nelson and Koonse modernize many of the songs, though, and highlights include the pianist’s accompaniment on “Both Sides Now,” a transformation of “Detour Ahead” into a waltz and a swinging version of “What A Difference A Day Made.” But with the focus squarely on Okita, Art Of Life mostly is predictable, pleasing but uneventful. —Scott Yanow

Art Of Life: Let’s Face The Music And Dance; Both Sides Now; Detour Ahead; Art Of Life; Blue Rose; When She Loved Me; Some Other Time; Smile; What A Difference A Day Made; Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye. (45:24)

Personnel: May Okita, vocals; Josh Nelson, piano; Larry Koonse, guitar.

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