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Jazz - Released September 28, 2018 | Blue Note (BLU)

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Jose James is bringing back the great soul music of the sixties. With Lean On Me, his fifth album on the label Blue Note, the singer from Minneapolis pays tribute to Bill Withers. This album reiterates the influence that the big names of mythical jazz and soul have had on the artist, who sang the tracks of a certain Billie Holiday back in 2015… Despite the many musical paths he could’ve taken, James remains a faithful servant to the masters of soul, doing his duty of remembrance through his covers. Recorded in Capitol Records’ famous Studio B, he surrounded himself with big names: Pino Palladino on bass, Brad Allen Williams on the guitar, Kris Bowers on keyboard and Nate Smith on drums, a dream team with whom the soul man lays himself bare. With vintage groove and power, his warm voice evokes a bygone era and blends erotically with the piano chords of Lean On Me. Lovely Day’s funky soul doesn’t phase him either, but if there’s an area in which he truly excels, it’s on the sugary and slightly acoustic southern soul track: Hello Like Before. Watch out for hot flushes! Switching between tradition and modernity, each track is a surprise. Whether it’s brilliant musical improvisation you’re looking for (Just The Two of Us) or full funk (Better Off Dead) − here’s a guru who can hypnotise you in just a few seconds! © Anna Coluthe/Qobuz
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R&B/Soul - Released March 6, 2020 | Rainbow Blonde Records

In 2013, having just signed to the Blue Note label, José James seemed to confirm his status as a powerful voice in the neo soul world with his new album No Beginning No End. With influences ranging from Bill Withers to Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye and D’Angelo, he blended jazz, soul, funk, hip-hop and R&B, all with a certain level of refinement. Still armed with that silky, romantic and unmatched voice, the Minneapolis singer now presents us with the sequel, No Beginning No End 2 published on his own label Rainbow Blonde Records. Like the first volume, this one exhibits a certain stylistic eclecticism that is rendered uniform by means of his vocals. A fantastic array of artistry which, although it doesn’t contain many surprises, is impeccably executed and features a huge range of guests including Aloe Blacc, Laura Mvula, Lizz Wright, Hindi Zahra, pianist Kris Bowers and trumpeters Christian Scott and Erik Truffaz. © Max Dembo/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released February 4, 2015 | UNIVERSAL MUSIC LLC

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R&B - Released January 1, 2013 | Blue Note (BLU)

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R&B - Released January 1, 2012 | Blue Note Records

No Beginning No End is singer and songwriter José James' fourth full-length, and his debut for Blue Note. It is as different from each of his previous records as they were from each other. The dozen songs on offer here continually contrast aspects of James' seemingly limitless musical persona: from funky neo-soul to elegant balladry to adventurous pop and R&B. He co-produced the album with bassist Pino Palladino and Brian Bender. He wrote or co-wrote eight tunes. There's lots of musical power here from his touring band, labelmates Robert Glasper and RG Experiment drummer Chris Dave, longstanding collaborator Emily King (who wrote two tunes here and appears as a duet partner), and Moroccan vocalist Hindi Zahra, to name a few. The first single, "Trouble," is rooted in neo-soul with its deeply funky horns (though they sound crystalline), strutting, blues-funk bassline, and rolling B-3, but slips through the genre to make something more now than neo. James’ silky baritone glides effortlessly over the top even when evoking Sly Stone's “If You Want Me to Stay” in his phrasing. "All Over Your Body" is driven by Palladino's belly-bumping bassline, and highlighted by loops, layers of live percussion, Rhodes, and shadowy, sexy horns. James, in slow-burn mode, may not be explicit, but he’s way past suggestive. "Vanguard" with Glasper's Rhodes and Dave's rimshot snare, offers an implied jazz vibe, but the tune’s hook and infectious vamp are mercurial. The haunting “Birds of Space” is spacy, jazzy, 21st century soul that recalls the flavor of James' Dreamer. "Sword + Gun," with Zahra, is exotic. Employing a repetitive sung chant, there are layers of syncopated handclaps, open-mode horns, and Palladino's Afro-funk bassline. When Zahra takes her vocal, James hums in the backdrop, as guitars and cracking snares punctuate her lines. King's "Heaven on the Ground" is a duet with the author. Acoustic guitars, brushed drums, low burning bass, and plenty of sunshine illuminate this jazz-pop love song. (There are two versions of her "Come to My Door" here; she sings on the bonus -- and better -- acoustic version that originally appeared on James' It’s All Over Your Body EP.) The stellar title track is a sexy, simmering babymaker. James is low and slow, aching with longing as Palladino's sub-deep register bass ushers in an impressionistic Rhodes and a subtle rimshot backbeat, as they slide underneath his vocal. The cover of Amp Fiddler's “Tomorrow” is an intimate, spacious piano ballad, with a harmonically rich string arrangement by Jules Buckley. Even with its glacial tempo, James moves with a smoldering intensity through an array of subtle yet intense emotional expressions, never once overstating his case. No Beginning No End is James' most holistic and expansive recording. Here he not only blurs the boundaries of the various genres he examines, but extends them; in the process, he creates a beguiling, sophisticated, important music that is his own. © Thom Jurek. /TiVo

Vocal Jazz - Released March 16, 2018 | Rainbow Blonde Records

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Let’s turn the spotlight once again on José James’ first album, which was released in 2008 by Brownswood Records, Gilles Peterson’s label. With The Dreamer, we quickly understood that the singer from Minneapolis living in New York has mastered inside out the legacy of the great soul’n’jazz voices such as Leon Thomas or Bobby McFerrin. At 30 years old, James also showed that the 90s nu soul orchestrated by D’Angelo and Erykah Badu had left a strong impression on him. But he most of all managed to offer a rather original blend of this groovy-influenced rainbow. We even found in his disc three daring and tasty covers: Park Bench People from the underrated rappers of Freestyle Fellowship, Roland Kirk’s Spirits Up Above and the song from Spike Lee’s first movie, She’s Gotta Have It, penned by double bass player Bill Lee, the father of the director. This 10th Anniversary Edition is actually released on José James’ own label, Rainbow Blonde Records, and offers four bonus tracks, among which a moving Coltrane (Dear Alice), dedicated to the saxophonist’s wife. © Max Dembo/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2010 | Verve

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R&B - Released January 1, 2014 | Blue Note (BLU)

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R&B - Released February 24, 2017 | Blue Note (BLU)

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Vocal Jazz - Released June 1, 2018 | Rainbow Blonde Records

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Electronic/Dance - Released February 28, 2010 | Rainbow Blonde Records

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R&B - Released February 24, 2017 | Blue Note (BLU)

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As he went into making his fourth Blue Note release, José James envisioned the follow-up to the Billie Holiday tribute Yesterday I Had the Blues as a double album. It was going to be split between love songs and outward-looking material inspired by persistent injustices and increasingly visible and frequent attacks upon persons of color in the U.S. At some point, James scrapped the second half of the concept, too distressed to see it through. In the liner notes for Love in a Time of Madness, he briefly addresses -- in pained but optimistic language -- the condition of his native country and the planet at large. James ends by asking, "What is the value of human life? And of what value is love?" Throughout, he and his collaborators approach answers to the second question by writing from various states of a one-on-one relationship. Seduction, euphoria, salvation, devotion, and distrust are among the moods in the mix. Due to the frequent presence of producer Antario "Tario" Holmes, the primary mode is commercial and contemporary R&B -- booming bass, burbling electronic FX, and other tricks of trap-style production, most prominently those snaking synthetic snares dragged as rapidly as flicked comb teeth. With rare exception, that approach to slow jams is for the sake of vocalists with a small fraction of the skill and life experience possessed by James. In these settings, his silken baritone is restricted, though the likes of the aching "Last Night," suitably closer to Miguel than to Bryson Tiller, and the candy-coated "Always There" (impossible to mistake for Ronnie Laws), are richer than the majority of mainstream radio playlist entries. Three collaborations with Mali Music are comparatively organic and traditionalist, dispersed across the album. Additionally, a throwback-to-throwback sequence of disco-funk numbers, also produced by Tario, provides an untroubled break in the middle. A sparse duet with Oleta Adams comes across like a bonus track transplanted from a different project, but it lets the listener out in a state of romantic contentment, the finishing touch on a uniquely bittersweet addition to the box of chocolates that is James' discography. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Funk - Released December 13, 2019 | Rainbow Blonde Records

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R&B - Released January 1, 2014 | Blue Note (BLU)

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José James is one of the most fascinating singers to appear in popular music over the last decade. On five previous recordings he's tackled jazz standards, hip-hop, neo-soul, funk, and even Moroccan gnawa. He claims that While You Were Sleeping is a synthesis of everything he loves about music citing Nirvana, Frank Ocean, Radiohead, and Junip in his list. He shifts directions yet again here, this time bringing his take on rock and pop into his musical arsenal. New guitarist Brad Allen Williams adds immeasurably to this ambition, joining a veteran band that includes keyboardist Kris Bowers, bassist/vocalist Solomon Dorsey, and drummer Richard Spaven. "Angel" is just one tune where Williams openly references the Jimi Hendrix of Band of Gypsys and Cry of Love. On "Angel," the band weaves fluid, silvery, wah-wah guitar distortion, jazzy Rhodes piano, dropped funky bass, and rolling, shuffling snares and breaks under his dark, sensual baritone. The title track (which briefly quotes from Neil Young's "Heart of Gold") weds folky psych pop to cosmic soul with a killer lead guitar break. The quiet drama in James' voice exudes elegance and earthiness. "Anywhere U Go" employs an aggressive bassline, shimmering Rhodes, and skittering, propulsive breaks against a guitar vamp that makes use of Nirvana's clipped melodic aesthetic. The spiritually resonant "4 Noble Truths" is introduced by strummed acoustic guitar in a minor key and a cracking snare. They are fleshed out provocatively by an expressionistic string quartet and a spiraling B-3. Becca Stevens makes one of her duet appearances on her haunting original "Dragon." Its Eastern-tinged slow groove is adorned by spacious guitar effects and elliptical keyboards atop a hushed rhythm section. Soul informs everything here. Check the stretched Madlib meets Flying Lotus beats in the sexy, tender "U R the 1." The minor-key melody in "XX" is one of James' better belly-to-belly love jams. His steamy croon is elevated by his lyrics, which are as poetically cognizant as they are carnally aware. The contrasting elements of pointillist rock guitars and warm indie electronica bump against the interlocking rhythm section. Al Green's "Simply Beautiful," features guest trumpeter and labelmate Takuya Kuroda delivering a fine solo. It's no ordinary cover. James recombines jazz, soul, and blues in a compelling arrangement that frames his trademark phrasing with tender yet sultry delivery. It underscores how provocative While You Were Sleeping is. With James' voice and nearly iconic harmonic sensibility as a guide, these genres flow into, rub against, and ultimately redefine one another. His creative reach, at least at this juncture appears to be boundless . ~ Thom Jurek
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R&B - Released November 22, 2019 | Rainbow Blonde Records

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R&B - Released February 24, 2017 | Blue Note (BLU)

R&B - Released January 1, 2013 | Blue Note (BLU)

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Miscellaneous - Released April 10, 2017 | Jnj Records

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Soul - Released February 14, 2020 | Rainbow Blonde Records

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Funk - Released January 10, 2020 | Rainbow Blonde Records

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Jose James in the magazine