Jose James is a Minneapolis, MN-born singer/songwriter, guitarist and producer, who has spent his career bouncing around genres and styles at will: he spent a decade reshaping jazz with the genre-blurring verve of a crate-digging beat guru — and while receiving accolades for his early work, became a solo R&B star. Interestingly, after spending the past couple of years recording and touring with Bill Withers‘ legendary songbook for the Lean on Me project, the critically applauded singer/songwriter guitarist and producer returns to his own original work with the forthcoming release of the highly-anticipated No Beginning No End 2, the follow up — and sequel — to his critically applauded 2013 effort, No Beginning No End, an effort that featured a crowd-pleasing eclecticism.
Of course several things have changed since the release of No Beginning No End. The highly-anticipated follow up and sequel is James’ first release on his own Rainbow Blonde Records, an independent record label, multi-disciplinary collective and open-spirited community founded by Talia Billig, Brian Bender and James on a few simple principles:
- it’s run by artists for artists,
- it’s a one-stop shop with a superstar in-house crew,
- music is culture — not product
- none of it works if you’re not having fun doing it
Deeply inspired by Janelle Monae‘s Wondaland Arts Society,Flying Lotus‘ Brainfeeder and Solange’s Saint Heron, Rainbow Blonde is space designed to allow artists to be creative without feeling inundated or pressured by the confines of big business. As for the album’s material, it features an eclectic and impressive cast of collaborators including Laura Mvula, Aloe Blacc, Ledisi, Lizz Wright, Erik Truffaz, Hindi Zahra and more paired with a backing band which featured Brett Williams, Kris Bowers, and Takeshi Ohbayashi playing keys; Marcus Machado, Alan Hampton and album co-producer Brian Bender playing guitar; Ben williams on bass; Quetzal‘s Alberto Lopez. Reportedly, the end result is some of the warmest and most defined material James has written and released — that also manages to draw on the Afro-Latin tinged sounds of 70s soul.
Late last year, I wrote about No Beginning No End 2‘s first single, the strutting “Turn Me Up.” Featuring a guest spot from Aloe Blacc, the track was centered round a warm, classic soul-inspired arrangement twinkling keys, a sinuous bass line, copious amount of congo, twinkling and arpeggiated keys, funky bursts of guitar and an infectious hook. Interestingly, while balancing ambitious songwriting and deliberate attention to craft while nodding at Simply Bill-era Bill Withers, Heatwave, Stevie Wonder and others. “You Know What It Do,” No Beginning No End 2‘s second and latest single is a mischievous and joyful strut, centered around strummed acoustic guitar, a sinuous bass line and an infectious hook. And much like its predecessor, the song finds James and his backing band balancing craft with a free-flowing, jam-like vibe.
2/12: Tokyo, JP @ Billboard Live
2/14: Osaka, JP @ Billboard Live
3/21: Denver, CO @ Dazzle Jazz
3/22: Los Angeles, CA @ Lodge Room
3/25: New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
3/27: Washington, DC @ The Hamilton Live
5/7: Evanston, IL @ SPACE
5/8-9: Minneapolis, MN @ Dakota