January 22, 2010

Ep/Album Review - Jose James - Blackmagic

Here is a record I couldn't wait to discover.
Why is that? well in only a couple of years Jose James has easily entered my circle of favorite artists with an already almost legendary first record "The Dreamer" (Brownswood, 2008), a brilliant jazz project around Alice and John Coltrane work (see more info here on our 2009 year review) and great live performances.
The man has an incredible smooth and deep preacher-like voice and has so far always made great artistic choices to get a musical support as good as his vocal talent demands.
Hence my high expectations for his second album, still on Gilles Peterson's Brownswood label.
Looking at the artists that contributed to this production (Hip-hop producers Flying Lotus and Dj Mitsu The Beats, legendary deep-house producer Moodyman among others) I knew that this record would probably sound less jazzy than "The Dreamer" and would probably be more nu-soul/beats oriented.
In fact half of the tracks is reminiscent of The Dreamer, great groovy modern jazz with piano drums and bass supporting his fantastic lyrics flow. "Save Your Love For Me" and "Beauty" being two new jewels in that genre in my humble opinion.
The other half is, as expected, more "beats" oriented. I remember chatting with him following a concert last year and him telling me that D'Angelo is one of the singer that most influenced him. I actually thought about it while listening to the beats-like tracks of Blackmagic. For instance the album intro track "Code", produced by Flying Lotus, is a fantastic deep nu-soul track (video below) that clearly reminds me of some early D'Angelo stuff.

This record is clearly a success, Jose James widens its musical scope while still building on its solid jazz background. Still I would not put it on the same level as "The Dreamer" as Blackmagic alternates between incredible tracks and a few less memorable ones.

Now I'm really looking forward to see this album performed live. All his tour dates on his site.
Let's also note that Jose has signed on the legendary Verve label and should be releasing mid-2010 a jazz album with belgian pianist Jef Neve with whom he did this great Coltrane revisited project.

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