Friday, June 20, 2014

Jose James: While You Were Sleeping - DownBeat

Jose James
While You Were Sleeping

Anyone concerned about singer-songwriter Jose James abandoning his loverboy cred can rest easy. His newest album opens with a desire to "taste you" and - not counting an elegant cover of Al Green's "Simply Beautiful" - closes with the phrase, "All I need is one more night alone with you." In between those carnal desires, however, James tries on a few different hats with varying degrees of success.

Guitarist Brad Allen Williams opens "Angel" with an unexpected nod to Randy Rhoads, supplying a sturdy rock riff to what would otherwise be a simmering r&b ballad. The guitar sound makes for an unexpected opening statement and returns again in even stranger territory on "Anywhere You Go," an unabashed post-grunge rock'n'roll song that could have been in heavy rotation on an early '00s alt-rock radio station. Anyone purchasing the album on the weight of that track would be in for a surprise, and James seems only to be sticking a toe into the mosh pit.

Well-deserved Blue Note muse Becca Stevens - she also penned a track for trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire's 2014 release - performs a vocal duet with James on her own "Dragon," blending a hushed groove and ethereal production into a pulsating vibe. Labelmate Takuya Kuroda delivers a wonderfully melodic trumpet solo on "Simply Beautiful." James is a welcome, youthful bridge from the jazz world to the r&b scene but this album is a little too schizophrenic.

Jose James @ DownBeat

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