José James – 1978

We just came back from this year’s jazzahead! fair in Bremen (expect a report sometime later this week) during which a bunch of great new releases came out. José James finally came up with his 12th release. Titled “1978” (his birth year), it’s a double vinyl album with a total of nine tracks, three of them were released as singles prior to the album’s release: “Saturday Night (Need You Now)”, “38th & Chicago”, and “Dark Side Of The Sun”. Its moody and sexy atmosphere reminds me of both Marvin Gaye and Chico DeBarge. The opening piece “Let’s Get It” features a string quartet and boasts with a pretty hypnotic, repetitive groove and sound. José sounds amazing throughout the project which was exceptionally well mixed by Pete Min at Lucy’s Meat Market in Los Angeles and thus, actually really goes all the way back to the late 70s when production and mastering and arranging standards were of the highest order.

José James "1978"

The same applies for “Isis & Osiris”, another fantastic midtempo soul swayer with a certain repetitiveness which makes it all the more compelling and fascinating. Great synth playing and solo by Chad Selph (sounding like Earth, Wind & Fire mid 70s). Drums are played by Jharis Yokley (also coming up with his debut album on Rainbow Blonde) and recorded and mixed very much in your face on the album. Marcus Machado is on guitar and David Ginyard on bass. All exquisitely adding to the overall mellow feel of the album. I also like the fact that both of these tunes are much longer than your usual album tracks (6:35 and 8:11 respectively). Side two opens with the slightly more uptempo “Planet Nine”, again with some funky synths and keys providing a special, shimmering sound. There is another 7-minute track on offer here: “Black Orpheus (Don’t Look Back)” is both mesmerizing and haunting, spreading out a healing force.

The only track here which is not really mine is “Dark Side Of The Sun”. It features Belgium-based poet Baloji, rapping over an insistent beat with forcing handclaps. I really like the world-music/folk feel of “Place Of Worship” which has the wonderful Xenia França on vocals. José tackles the tragic story of Trayvon Martin, who was fatally shot in Florida in 2012. “Trayvon” excels with tragic drama, using four strings and acoustic piano to create a really haunting and sad backdrop. It’s almost save-the-best-for-last time with the unequivocally sexy “38th & Chicago” (named after the street section in Minneapolis where George Floyd, a black man, was murdered by Derek Chauvin, a white man), which has brimming percussion by Pedrito Martinez and an amazing guitar solo by Marcus Machado.

José plays the Blue Note in New York from April 23rd to 28th and comes back to Europe, see below.

05/25 Leuven – Het Depot
05/26 Hamburg – Mojo Club
05/27 Amsterdam – Paradiso
05/28 – Schiltigheim – La Briqueterie
05/29 Paris – New Morning
05/30 Nice – Théâtre Lino Ventura
05/31 London – Ronnie Scott’s
06/01 London – Ronnie Scott’s
06/03 Vienna – Porgy & Bess
06/04 Zurich – Moods
06/05 Oslo – Cosmopolite Scene
He also plays select dates in Europe in July and will perform at this year’s Monterey Jazz Festival on September 27th.


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