Jose James | No Beginning No End
Blue Note Records
By Peggy Oliver
As the independent music market is growing leaps and bounds amongst the mainstream industry, more singer/songwriters are daring to think further outside the mainstream. With a voice that transcends numerous genres, no one could or should pigeonhole Jose James’ intentions as an artist. His uncanny ability and mellow flair in guiding pop and R&B melodies
into unexpected territory has made Jose James a respected figure in the underground music circles. Whether in an acoustic jazz setting, teaming with club DJ’s or with progressive rappers, James is extremely comfortable with changing the musical protocol from project to project. James’ big break was established with DJ/producing guru Giles Peterson, who discovered the Brooklyn singer/songwriter of Panamanian/Irish descent displaying his chops on John Coltrane. Peterson executive-produced James’s debut in 2008, The Dreamer, a sweet canvas of jazz kissed, R&B sweetness and Black Magic that bridged the elements of The Dreamer with assorted DJ beats. James has also teamed with pianists McCoy Tyner on stage and Jef Neve covering jazz and blues standards for For All We Know on the resurrected Impulse! label.
On his fourth recording in his short but already fascinating career, James now has the opportunity in calling all the artistry shots for No Beginning No End. Several collaborators including Emily Grant, Pino Palladino and Robert Glasper further enhance James’ indescribable musical vision in making this Blue Note debut even more delectable.
Co-producer Palladino’s sonic production skills are stamped on the sensual, “It’s All Over (Your Body)” as the adventurous drum and percussion jabs cut through the smooth brass section and Palladino’s in the pocket bass lines and complex drum breaks drive the neo-soul framed, “Make it Right.” “Trouble” offers solid props towards classic soul heroes like Sam Cooke and Al Green that laid their vulnerability on the line. Another old-school legend, producer/songwriter Leon Ware, is the inspiration for “Bird of Space,” a poignant tale of lament and roller coaster emotions: “You and me we can’t look back/We got problems, that’s a fact/I will keep loving you when the love has gone away.” Pinches of gospel, blues, jazz and soul fuel the long-suffering love story behind “Do You Feel.” Occasionally James strays from the unconventional with “Heaven on the Ground” and the hip-hop stroked, “Come to My Door,” both featuring Grant. On the other hand, the biggest risk-taker belongs to “Sword + Gun”, an energetic piece basking in fierce African rhythms: “Lay down your sword and gun/Lay down your soldier’s arms/You don’t want to die so far from home.”
In essence, all eleven tracks on No Beginning No End have few major flaws with the only serious miscue being the title tracks’ over-padded climax. From beginning to end, No Beginning No End fully proves James is working it all out with his impeccable vocal paintings and his confident artistry stride.
Vanguard feat. Robert Glasper
Do You Feel
No Beginning No End
The Urban Music Scene