March 30, 2010

V4YS Concert Review - José James - Blackmagic Release Concert, La Bellevilloise, Paris 28/03/10

Well, well, well, I'm gonna need the help of an online fr/eng dictionnary to write this short review as my english vocabulary may quickly fall short of superlatives to accurately describe the phenomenal performance I've been attending last sunday night at La Bellevilloise in Paris.

I was particularly curious to see how Jose James would present his second album, "Blackmagic", on stage, as he enters new musical spaces (beats/nu-soul) compared to the pure "nu-jazz" sound of his already legendary first album "The Dreamer". The result is the best live act I've seen so far this year.

First interesting surprise, on top of his three outstanding musicians (a drummer, a pianist/keyboard and a bass player) Jose was joined by a female singer, Jordana De Lovely, who happened to be a remarkable addition to the show.
Whether she was singing together with Jose, as an amazing leading singer like on "Love Conversation" (a track that she contributed to on the album) or as a backing chorist, we could feel the amount of work and preparation that the two of them did together. She also has a great stage presence, full of sincerity and sensuality, that blends beautifully with Jose's own charisma.

 The concert started by a long nu-jazz instrumental track by the band that was in direct filiation with "The Dreamer" nu-jazz sound.
Then came Jose and Jordana on stage and the atmosphere changed to a darker and bewitching sound when he started to sing the first verses of the single "Code", written by abstract hip-hop artist Flying Lotus.
Actually "sing" is not the correct word, "sermonned" or "chanting psalms" would be more accurate. Like a hip-hop sample loop being repeated or a (good) broken record, his long and powerful vocal intro flow was absolutely stunning.

The transition to the second extract from the new Lp, was also amazing. Like a great Dj, the trio imperceptibly changed the rythm from "Code" to "Save Your Love For Me" and Jose slowly came back to his more traditional singing style to interpret this classic jazz song.
A bit later came a fantastic cover of Marvin Gaye's "I Want You" (sung in tandem with a mesmerizing Jordana De Lovely) that served as an intro to "Detroit's Loveletter" where Moodyman signature was obvious in the warm and laid-back groove played by the brilliant Rhodes keyboard player.
They repeated this cover pattern for the track "Blackmagic" with an intro glimpsing at Santana's "Black Magic Woman".
The band also made a small tribute to Alice and John Coltrane who play such a prominent role in Jose's artistic influences. His hypnotic psalmoding quoting the title "A Love Supreme" backed by a dismantled free jazz tempo acted as a deep praise to the memory of the Coltranes' genious .
This was also  a reminder that he should soon be releasing an album on Verve with belgian pianist Jef Neve on this matter (more on this here).
Other highlights of the evening include his soulful interpetation of "Lay You Down" and the 20 mn-long "encore" : the band came back to play the third Flying Lotus track from the album, "Made For Love" where Jose and Jordana De Lovely association was at its best.
For the final track his three astonishing musicians delivered a powerful instrumental jazz tune that left me speachless!

So that was an accomplished live performance giving this second album a whole new dimension in my opinion. Jose James singing art gets more and more impressive, he oscillates so easily from hip-hop-like flow to D'Angelo-like nu-soul mode or to his classic jazz style. His range of possibilities is immense and I'm sure we'll get many more great musical treasures from his part.

So remember : this is an almost mandatory concert to go to if he tours anywhere near you! (all his coming live dates here).

P.S. : merci à Vincent (encore!) pour ses belles photos!

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