Live dates have now firmed up for José James whose album No Beginning No End, is released in just under a fortnight on 21 January. Heavily trailed since October, the album may well see the jazz singer become much better known to wider audiences, but for now he will in all likelihood retain his jazz audience. No Beginining, No End (****) has an authentic retro jazzed-out soul sound, not Gregory Porter’s way, say, although both singers profess much love for the music of Nat King Cole yet come at the tradition from a different angle. Each has a very different voice, and James is more alert to the club scene, ‘club’ as in the old acid jazz rare groove sense, and with James it’s one ear to Bill Withers, one ear to Flying Lotus and all ears to John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, but a touch of Gil Scott-Heron for the freestylin’ generation comes in to the picture as well.
The new album of originals opens in bedroom fashion with JJ’s lyrics on ‘It’s All Over Your Body’ with a band featuring famed ‘Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)’ bassist Pino Palladino, some retro horns, Robert Glasper and Chris Daddy Dave. World-jazz singer Hindi Zahra guests memorably on the next track ‘Sword and Gun’, yet it’s ‘Trouble’ blessed with a monster groove that really impresses. The Van Morrison band’s Alistair White on trombone makes his presence felt on this JJ-penned song, written with Scott Jacoby, and ‘Vanguard’ following is also excellent, Glasper helming it on Rhodes with Daddy Dave and Pino Palladino, the latter who played very well live with Glasper at the Roundhouse in October and is an album co-producer. Emily King adds lovely subtle touches on the seductive ‘Come to my Door’, the fifth track, and she’s even better on the second of her two album tracks ‘Heaven on the Ground’, which is track six. ‘Do You Feel’ and ‘Make it Right’ passed me by a bit, but ‘Bird of Space’ didn’t, it’s a stayer, while final tracks ‘No Beginning No End’ and ‘Tomorrow’, the latter with Monk prizewinning pianist Kris Bowers an appealing harmonic presence. A record this good hardly ever comes along. It’s for jazz and the wider world. SG
Live dates are: XOYO, London (9 April); Sugar Club, Dublin (12 April); and Band on the Wall Manchester (13 April). The cover of No Beginning, No End, above
Extra dates (15/03 update): Wednesday 10 April, Wardrobe, Leeds; and 14 April at Hare & Hounds, Birmingham