The word nomad is defined as “a person with no fixed residence who roams about; a wanderer.” In a state of where the arts have been shaken up by the lack of coverage by journalists and the press, many of today’s real artists have been left to fend for themselves here in the states. The recording industry has decided to let shows like “American Idol” and “Americas Next Talent” dictate to the masses who’s the next big thing.
Vocalist and producer Jose James has allowed himself to musically record the kinds of projects that he wants to do. His vision of his music has earned him one of best new vocalists of his generation adding a unique flavor to his take on both jazz and soul. I’ve been blessed to witness his nomadic state of existence while following his career here in the states. I use the word ‘nomadic’ due to the climate of the record industry here. See, Jose’s recorded his first three recordings in the UK and Brussels and his career has skyrocketed oversees. He lived in London for many years but decided a little over a year ago to return to the states to kick off his fan base and following. It hasn’t been an easy feat for him to say the least due to some critics not finding him “too jazz based!” Or, others find him to soulful! In the years I seen him perform and listen to each recording, I find his music both soothing and improved over the years. I appreciate the fact that Brother Jose can go from a funked out version of “Save Your Love For Me” to a soulful hit like “Code.” Jose is in the rich tradition of great vocalists like Sade, Lou Rawls, Dinah Washington, Roberta Flack that reach into black roots music and fused and meshed them into their own style.
The Minneapolis native grew up a devout fan of hip-hop, yet he also developed a love for soul and jazz music. Jose knew he wanted to sing and after graduating from high school he decided to attend the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City. It was there where he had great teachers like drummer Chico Hamilton and pianist Junior Mance as his teachers as well mentors. Jose also formed his first band while in school.
On a trip to London, Jose met the legendary producer/DJ Giles Peterson where he heard his rendition of John Coltrane’s “Equinox.” Peterson signed him and recorded his first two records “The Dreamer” and “Blackmagic” on the Brownswood label. Jose’s third project was the Impulse Records release “For All We Know” project with pianist Jef Neve. The album was a collection of standards where both he and Jef went into the studio and recorded it in under a hour.
His success over his short time he’s been recording has allowed to collaborate and record on guest projects with artists like Flying Lotus, Taylor McFerrin, Jazzanova, Chico Hamlton, Junior Mance, and Toshio Matsuura.
This year Jose is touring the states with a vengeance as he’s about to release his most ambitious and gritty record up to date. “No Beginning, No End” goes back to that great soul music era of Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, and George Benson. Jose not only produced the entire record, he wrote and chose all the musicians that he wanted to perform and guest appear on his project. Special guests include Robert Glasper, Pino Palladino, Jessica Care Moore, Taylor McFerrin, Hindi Zahra, “Chris “Daddy” Dave, and Emily King.
His current single “Trouble” is not only a head-bobber, it reeks of greatness and fresh soul music.
Needless to say, Jose pulls no punches with this project. I saw him perform the new songs at a recent performance at The Jazz Standard which is included in this television segment and the proof is in the pudding! Jose is about to blow up! Every performance I’ve seen him whether its the Jazz Standard to the Blue Note to Dizzy’s here in NYC, his music fans have packed out these venues to sold-out crowds. Apparently Mr. James is doing something right!
Look for his upcoming disc “No Beginning, No End” sometime this year. For more information on Jose’s show and release dates, please visit him on the web at josejamesmusic.com.