Tag: Rainbow Blonde Records

Ben Williams is an acclaimed Washington DC-born and-based singer/songwriter, bassist, composer, bandleader and highly sought-after collaborator. Williams graduated from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Michigan State University and The Juilliard School, winning the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition(now known as the Herbie Hancock  International Jazz Competition) back in 2009 and a Grammy Award as a member of Pat Metheny‘s Unity Band. He has collaborated with an impressive and remarkably diverse array of artists including Wynton Marsalis, George Benson, Maxwell, Robert Glasper, Pharrell and a long list of others. (He also appeared in Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead.)

As a bandleader and composer, Williams has released two albums through renowned jazz label Concord Records — 2011’s State of Art and 2015’s Coming of Age. Slated for a February 7, 2020 release through Jose James‘, Talia Billig‘s and Brian Bender’s Rainbow Blonde Records, Williams third album I AM A MAN references Memphis‘ historic 1968 sanitation workers’ strike, during which African American men marched through the streets with picket signs that read “I Am A Man” in a boldface type. “The image of this long line of men, holding the picket signs, all saying the same thing — there’s something powerful about seeing this message over and over again,” Williams explains, before saying that the messaging reminded him of how we use hashtags today to help ignite and inspire activism today, such as the Black Lives Matter and MeToo movements. But there’s multiple subtle meanings to the album’s title: as Williams said during his performance at the Rainbow Blonde Records NYC Winter Jazz Fest last week the album wasn’t a typical protest album; that it was thematically an exploration of the black male psyche.

Sonically, the album reportedly meshes past, present and future, as it seemingly draws from The Roots, Erykah Badu, Bilal, D’Angelo, Common, Roy Hargrove‘s RH Factor as well as Marvin Gaye‘s What’s Going On, Curtis Mayfield and others.

Williams plays both double bass and electric bass throughout the album’s material, singing lead vocals on almost every single song on the album. He’s joined by an accomplished backing band of collaborators that includes Kris Bowers (keys), David Rosenthal (guitar), Marcus Strickland (tenor sax, bass clarinet), Bendji Allonce (percussion), Keyon Harrold (trumpet), Anne Drummond (flute), Jamire Williams (drums) and Justin Brown (drums). The album also features a handful of songs with  string arrangements performed by a string quartet — Justina Sullivan (cello), Celia Hatton  (viola), Maria Im (violin) and Chiara Fasi (violin), and vocals from Kendra Foster, Muhsimah, Wes Felton and Niles.

The album’s first single is the cinematic “If You Hear Me.” Centered around an spacious and cinematic arrangement featuring a shimmering and soaring string arrangement, African polyrhythm, Williams’ plaintive and soulful vocals, the track manages brings to Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield and Landing on a Hundred-era Cody Chesnutt to mind. The album’s second single, fittingly released today is an atmospheric rendition of the civil rights-era classic “We Shall Overcome” that places the song’s timeless struggle and hope for a far better, more just world into a contemporary context:  reminding the listener that the struggle of MLK, Malcolm X,  The Black Panthers and others,  is the same struggle as Black Lives Matter and other movements.

Williams will be embarking on a handful of live dates that includes a February 8, 2020 album release show at Nublu 151. Check out the live dates below.

 

Tour Dates
2/8: New York, NY @ Nublu 151 (Album Release Show)
3/19: Washington, DC @ City Winery

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 LotusBrainfeeder 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.

James will be embarking on a tour to build up buzz and then support No Beginning No End 2 and the tour includes a March 25, 2020 stop at Bowery Ballroom. Check out the tour dates below.

Tour Dates
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

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 LotusBrainfeeder 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.

No Beginning No End 2‘s first single is the strutting “Turn Me Up.” Centered around a warm, classic soul-inspired arrangement featuring twinkling keys, a sinuous bass line, copious amount of congo, twinkling, arpeggiated keys, funky bursts of guitar, effortlessly soulful vocals from James and Aloe Blacc and an infectious hook the song manages to balance ambition and craft with a jam-like vibe, while nodding at Simply Bill-era Bill Withers, Heatwave, Stevie Wonder and others.

James will be embarking on a tour to build up buzz and then support No Beginning No End 2 and the tour includes a March 25, 2020 stop at Bowery Ballroom. Check out the tour dates below.

2020 Tour Dates
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