9

Jose James: No Begining No End

Franz A. Matzner By

Sign in to view read count
Smoother than cognac and just as refined, No Beginning No End drips with an unabashed sensuality both subtly delivered and painfully personal. With his Blue Note debut, Jose James employs the terrifying capacity of his voice to penetrate the heart of deeper, more hidden spaces and lay bare the emotional contours of urban existence.

To accomplish this feat, James wraps the distinct timber of his voice in a contemporary cloak that weaves together jazz, R&B, electronica, pop, funk, and soul elements. This is more than genre blending. The fluid approach of James and the musical partners he brings together on No Beginning, No End defies the existence of genre divisions, instead using musical facets pulled from a wide variety of styles, eras and formats as a painter uses different colors to deftly craft a personal vision.

James has delved into the slower-tempos of '60s and '70s R&B, married them with jazz improvisation and pop ballad structures, and then layered in low-end electronica and trip-hop beats and textures to examine the dark, close spaces and isolated moments of slowness often considered alien to our cityscapes and rapid-fire lifestyles.

The result is an album of remarkable consistency both in atmosphere and quality of execution. It is also an album deserving close attention, for the first impression is defined by liquid beats and soulful grooves, a mesmerizing hypnotic flow and the unique qualities of James' voice. Further listening reveals one of James' less recognized qualities, the perceptivity of his writing and lyrical interpretation. James wields his voice deftly to dissect complex emotional relationships with disturbing clarity, often leaving a sense of nakedness that uncomfortably reflects vulnerabilities, longings, and joys. James' brilliance is that he manages this with deceptive simplicity, without pretension, and in a totally hip, urbane musical context.

Perhaps the epitome of this phenomena is reached on the outwardly straightforward, most pop-oriented of the album's 11 tracks, "Come to My Door." The prosaic lyrics and memorable tune set the stage for a gorgeously delivered meditation on unconditional love, resonant for its translation of this lofty concept into the real world through concrete imagery and a touchingly heartfelt delivery. More impressive, it manages to thoughtfully examine the many emotional layers involved: the melancholy inherent in unrequited devotion, the fulfillment that comes with it, and the hope we all have that somewhere out there someone is waiting for us to knock on their door in just that way.

Few artists are able to achieve this much in such a simple tune. Although not every tune on No Beginning No End accomplishes so much, each reflects a similar level of craftsmanship and personal investment. From the call of "Sword+Gun" to reject violence, to the floating abstraction of "Bird of Space," to the funky, horn-infused seduction "It's All Over Your Body," the album is a display of artistic maturity both insightful and thoroughly inviting.

Track Listing: It’s All Over Your Body; Sword + Gun; Trouble; Vanguard; Come To My Door; Heaven On The Ground; Do You Feel; Make It Right; Bird of Space; No Beginning No End; Tomorrow

Personnel: Jose James: vocals; Kris Bowers: piano; Robert Glasper: piano(4) bassist Pino Palladino: bass; Hindi Zahra: vocals (2); Emily King: vocals(6); Chris Dave:drums(4); Richard Spaven: drums(8); Grant Windsor: keyboards(8); Corey King: trombone(8); Takuya Kuroda: trumpet(8); Jeremy Most: guitar(8)

Title: No Begining No End | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Blue Note Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read ON Tour CD/LP/Track Review ON Tour
by John Kelman
Published: October 22, 2017
Read On a Distant Shore CD/LP/Track Review On a Distant Shore
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: October 22, 2017
Read Friends & Heroes: Guitar Duets CD/LP/Track Review Friends & Heroes: Guitar Duets
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 22, 2017
Read Signal 9 CD/LP/Track Review Signal 9
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 22, 2017
Read For the Love of You CD/LP/Track Review For the Love of You
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Recent Developments CD/LP/Track Review Recent Developments
by John Sharpe
Published: October 21, 2017
Read "Fresh Air Project" CD/LP/Track Review Fresh Air Project
by Jerry D'Souza
Published: September 30, 2017
Read "All Smiles" CD/LP/Track Review All Smiles
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: August 31, 2017
Read "Ray Charles Orchestra: Zurich 1961-Swiss Radio Days Jazz Series, Vol. 41" CD/LP/Track Review Ray Charles Orchestra: Zurich 1961-Swiss Radio Days Jazz...
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 8, 2016
Read "Around The Horn" CD/LP/Track Review Around The Horn
by Jeff Winbush
Published: April 16, 2017
Read "Incidentals" CD/LP/Track Review Incidentals
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 18, 2017
Read "Donora Autumn" CD/LP/Track Review Donora Autumn
by Jack Bowers
Published: July 29, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.