There was a defining moment in Jose James’ live session for KCRW at Apogee’s Berkeley Street Studio. The singer, whose swagger was so deserved it became an understatement, changed the set list. He called out for his insanely talented band to jump to the track “Do You Feel”, during which they all took turns soloing.
Instrumental solos can either torpedo momentum or get the crowd so worked up into a frenzy it takes it to the next level. Needless to say it was the latter, with the other players, eyes closed, head bobbing, showing a supreme amount of respect for each others musicianship (Jose even gave bass player the “1 more minute” finger as he started to wrap up). This is what jazz looks like in 2012. And it feels just as great to witness it as it – seemingly – looks to play it. It was magical.
So many things come to mind when you hear the word jazz, but I doubt many people envision the scene I saw last night. The Brooklyn-based singer, refusing to be categorized, delves seamlessly into hip hop, R&B, and soul. Three words perfectly sum up the set: sexy, soulful, and sublime
He credits a member of last night’s audience, Leon Ware, who he met out in LA, for helping him connect the dots between all the genres. (He later called Ware’s album “I Want You” his favorite album of all time, saying he’s listened to a thousand times before, including right before the show.)
“I like it because it’s seductive, but it makes you think. It makes you feel. Its not just pure romance, it’s more complex than that.”
From songs with a North African influence and flamenco claps (“Sword + Gun”) to a track written with another contemporary jazz master, Robert Glasper (“Vanguard”) we got a preview of his new album “No Beginning No End”, which was two years in the making. We were all gobsmacked by their cover of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” and the track “Trouble“, released earlier this year, was clearly a hit.
During the interview, host Tom Schnabel finally asked the questions all the ladies wanted answered: who was he writing about on this album?
“I will say when I sing, and when I write, I think there are three individuals that we have the most important, maybe the most conflicted, and definitely the most interesting relationships with — one is yourself. One is whatever idea of divinity – whether you believe in it or not, you still have a relationship with it, which is fascinating to me. And, you know, that special person in your life.”
At one point he told Tom “it’s hard for people who try to do new things”, but just minutes later he informed us that the band would be playing Aretha Franklin’s holiday party in Detroit. The road may not be easy but Jose and company are clearly on the right path.
(Editor’s Note: Bob Clearmountain, just back from mixing the 12/12/12 concert in NYC, was on the boards. From Bruce Springsteen and Alicia Keys to Jose James for KCRW! KCRW’s Berkeley Street Sessions would not be possible without him. )
Jose James — Band Members
José James - vocal/acoustic guitar
Kris Bowers – keyboards
Solomon Dorsey – bass /BG vocals
Takuya Kuroda – trumpet
Nate Smith – drums
Corey King – Trombone
Jose James Live on KCRW Set List
It’s All Over Your Body
Sword + Gun
Ain’t No Sunshine
Do You Feel
No Beginning No End
Park Bench People