José James: No Beginning No End

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Posted February 21, 2013 by in Vocal jazz
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Rating

Overall
 
 
 
 
 

3.5/ 5

Details

Genre:
 
Producer: ,
 
Label:
 
 
 
 
Genre: Vocal jazz, contemporary r&b, neo-soul
 
Producer: Pino Palladino, Brian Bender
 
Label: Blue Note
 
Format: Digital download
 
Time: 65:11
 
Release Date: 22 January 2013
 
Spin This: It's All Over Your Body, Trouble
 

Pros:

Lounge soul and smart production values pushes progressive jazz to the forefront
 

Cons:

After awhile, the songs on the second half start to sound alike and easily gel together; a bit tedious in length
 

Thick blend of hip-hop, soul and jazz reverberates on baritone singer’s Blue Note debut

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Thick blend of hip-hop, soul and jazz reverberates on baritone singer’s Blue Note debut 

The vocal of José James can be compared to Lou Rawls. If you’re not a big fan of the underrated baritone, the second-tier Luther, don’t mind messing with José. But it’s important to implore that on his Blue Note debut, James creates a massive long player that takes Anthony Hamilton neo-soul into the cozy lounge jazz world. The brew served here is more contemporary than James’s prior works. Other than soliciting a strong slate of youngblood modern jazz musicians (Robert Glasper, Chris Dave, Hindi Zahra), No Beginning No End acts as a lovechild of Coltrane and the Roots. Much of the record is appropriate for easy-listening playing at the home and office, but he does whip out the occasional radio pleaser. “It’s All Over Your Body” is both sexy and funky, relying on Rhodes and muted horns to work up a therapeutic lather. “Trouble,” another obvious winner, tries to salvage a broken relationship, while trying his hardest not to sermonizing about his mistake. The tune sounds like a baby brother of Bill Withers’s “Use Me.” “It’s Alright” also merits attention, even if the acoustic duet with Emily King, supplied as a bonus track towards the album’s backend, sounds less forced.

The album’s other tracks hardly knocks on the doors of commercial accessibility, but steadily works up a dreamscape that feels right on the singer. He designs “Do You Feel” around D’Angelo’s “Untitled” (or Aretha’s “Dr. Feelgood”), even if it tends to overstay its visit (clocking eight minutes). “Bird of Space” is more modal and trippy, while marinated in an expansive eight-minute performance that puts Pino Palladino’s below-sea level bass in a more pronounced role. James pivots back and forth from neo-soul, but falls into the trap of being an easy-listening singer. James is relatively calm as a crooner, allowing the environment to shape his moods. Only time he tries to show some epiphany as an aerial singer is on the album’s goodbye tune, “Tomorrow.” After serenading besides piano and the occasional strings, James lifts his voice with a declarative crescendo: “All my days are for you always.”

No Beginning No End acts as a heroic major release for a lightweight jazz star. The rich winning formula of genre fusion and his innate swagger brings a healthy awareness to the world of jazz. He deserves a better label than easy listening or jazzy. We’re already aware James isn’t seriously comfortable with wearing the jazz brand, despite being on a historic jazz label. For now, he has to accept the fate of the tumbling dice. He’s still too cool to be hip and too mellow to outshine Will Downing.

 

 


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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