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With the panache of Marvin Gaye and the smoothness of neo-soul artist D'Angelo, singer José James has been dubbed the "Smokey Robinson for the new generation." That's some heavy but deserving press as James' previous releases- -2010's Blackmagic and 2008's The Dreamer (both on Brownswood Records)bear witness. With his Blue Note debut, No Beginning No End's decidedly marketed project eschews the limitations of James being labeled just a "jazz singer" with a recording that swirls together jazz, hip hop, R&B, and romantic ballads into a stylized mix.
Like fellow Blue Note recording artist Robert Glasper, who also contributes to James' label debut, the singer has successfully created a release that reflects his culture and diversity as revealed in the track "Sword + Gun," featuring Moroccan singer Hindi Zahra. Its hypnotism is interwoven with North African-flavored percussion, harmonized hand claps, and tight horn vamps driven by a smooth drum and bass beat. From conception to completion, the piece evolved in about six hours in a Paris studio with Zahra and James adding ingenious music touches and lyrics that include peaceful anti-war sentiments:
Lay down your sword and gun
Lay down your soldier's arms
You don't want to die
So far from home.
When performed live, the vibe is even more persuasive, as the music, vocals, and hand-claps give the song an added dimension that's hard to deny..
Personnel: José James: vocals, electric guitar, percussion; Hindi Zahra: vocals, acoustic guitar,
percussion; Saul Williams: percussion; Takuya Kuroda: trumpet, flugelhorn; Corey King:
trombone; Pino Palladino: bass; Chris “Daddy” Dave: drums, percussion.
I love jazz because it mixes intellect and emotion in a very spontaneous way.
I was first exposed to jazz by liberating a Coltrane and a Pharoah Sanders record from a friend in NYC and listening to them over and over until I got it.
My advice to new listeners is you have to take the time to listen to some jazz tunes a number of times until it starts to make sense.