Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Dam! I missed it - Jose James at Metropolis

Not sure where the month has disappeared too, perhaps it's down to spending a week in London and dipping into Berlin life. Gutted I missed Jose James in action at Metropolis, Bristol on the 22nd March. For those that did, and those who are interested, here's a piece I wrote for Crack magazine.

(BTW my blogging has been impeded by lack of computer, I now have a new hard drive with extra space, all systems go, whoop)

Irish Panamanian parentage, Michigan raised, Brooklyn educated José James fuses many references to create caliginous soulful jazz delivered with an assurance that propels him beyond his years. James experiments outside the realms of the typified jazz scene collaborating with industry stalwarts Basement Jaxx, Jazzanova, Moodymann and Ben Westbeech. His new album takes a more electronically experimental approach, enlisting Flying Lotus as main contributor alongside dubstep innovators Joy Orbison (check out the recreation remix) and Untold. Here at Crack Towers we have been waiting in anticipation for the next offering, his new album Black Magic is upon us.

A guy with your talents surely has to have a musical heritage?
My dad's a sax player and conguero he plays Latin, Jazz and pop music. He's a monster musician, the kind who can play anything on almost any instrument. I just sing.

When did you decide to roll with a musical career?
Well, probably in high school. I got a chance to sing with a 10-piece professional band called "Echoes of Ellington" when they came to play at our school. I still remember the rush that cam from being on stage with that big sound looking out at all the kids - I was like "this is me!"

Does Black Magic differ from The Dreamer?
Definitely. This is 2010 where "The Dreamer" was intentionally 1958 sonically. Working with a lot of different producers like Lotus, Taylor, and Moodymann just puts everything in a different place and mood. I had to write differently, sing differently too, I just got deep into the tracks. The tracks I produced with my live band, I was able to make jazz sound like hip-hop and dubstep sound like jazz.

Where did you write Black Magic? What was the inspiration?
Flying Lotus sent me the music and I loved it right away. I was in NY and he was in LA or on tour. This was the first track we had done after ‘Visions of Violet’ and it flowed so easy. I was really inspired by Marvin Gaye and Leon Ware's album ‘I Want You’ which is one of my favorite classic records. I ended up in the studio with my homie Ryan who wrote ‘Love’ with me on The Dreamer and I just kept adding layers on some Curtis Mayfield vibe. It was dope.

Tell me about the highlights of making the album? How long were you recording for?
Almost two years, it was very organic and things kept happening. I met Moodymann in London dj-ing and he sent me a track, I didn't have inspiration for it right away - it happens sometimes. The final tracks were a huge rush of inspiration at the end, which completely shifted the energy of the album. I did Code with Flying Lotus, Detroit Love letter with Moodymann, and Love Conversation feat. Jordana de Lovely with Taylor McFerrin all in one week. Taylor and I were on the same flight from NY to Singapore for Gilles Worldwide Festival and we had a layover in Germany. He played me the music for Love Conversation and I had to rock that. By the time I landed back in NY I was ready to hit the studio. You can't plan those things, they just happen.

Who did you have working on the album with you?
So many people, Scott Jacoby, a Grammy-award winning engineer did the mixing, apart form the producers' individual work. Flying Lotus, DJ Mitsu the Beats, BiLo, Moodymann, and Talyor McFerrin. The live band was Gideon van Gelder - piano and Fender Rhodes, Richard Spaven and Adam Jackson on drums, Chris Smith and Alexi David on bass, Ryan Anselmi did the horn arrangements and played tenor along with Saunders Sermons on trombone who also works with Jay-Z, Missy, Maxwell. Pablo Castanho on alto, and Takuya Kuroda on trumpet. Guesting I had Jordana de Lovely from Brooklyn, Ryan Blum Kryzstal, Ben Westbeech, TK Wonder, and Junior Mance.

I'm impressed with your broad range of musical connections, how does a jazz artist hook up with a dubstep producer? Is there a secret circle?
I'd call it the Gilles Peterson's musical universe, being open to collaborate helps. A lot of people say to me "jazz people don't usually want to do anything but jazz” However Miles and Coltrane always kept expanding they just called it music or art.

Tell me about the link ups you have going on...Joy Orbison and Untold... how did they come about?
That was Brownswood and Gilles - they are great at hooking up remixes with interesting people.

And Flying Lotus, amazing! What happened there?
He was in London promoting his Reset EP - which I still play a lot - and I was working on things for The Dreamer. We had a drink and I passed him like 30 tracks I was working on. He was like "let's work" and asked me to do "Visions of Violet" for Los Angeles, which ended up not making the album but was an important direction for the Black Magic album. He's an amazing composer.

Who would you like to work with next, any female artists, perhaps a duo?
I'm really loving Hindi Zahra, Corinne Bailey Rae's new album, Stacy Epps, Esperanza Spalding, and the new Sade. Lots of women. Andreya Triana's new album coming soon. I love the pairing of a great male and female voice, like Marvin and Tammi. Classic.

Plans for the future, lots of touring by the looks of things?
Yeah we're kicking 2010 off with Japan, which is amazing. I'm looking forward to bringing the live show to Europe this spring and playing all the great festivals, seeing what's new and seeing my friends. It's a great opportunity to spread love through music - I'm very grateful.