José James Celebrating Erykah Badu in Amsterdam
On tour with his latest project “On & On: José James Sings Erykah Badu”, the singer told an almost sold-out Paradiso crowd last night that a jazz singer of today is supposed to celebrate contemporary artists, instead of reworking the classics by Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. Even though he keeps admiring both vocalists (he recorded a Holiday tribute “Yesterday I Had The Blues” in 2015), it was clear at last night’s performance that jazz reworkings of Badu’s stuff seem to be much more his forte.
But still, there was a connection between Holiday/Fitzgerald and contemporary Badu on his interpretations of songs like “Green Eyes”, clearly focussing on classic jazz ballad singing, but with a twist and knack which was clearly more 2023 than 1953. Backed by a stellar band, with each member with intensive solo spots, the sound at Paradiso was stellar and crisp. Big Yuki, playing piano and all sorts of keyboards, more than once surprised with his imaginative and sometimes explosive playing. And both his saxophonists, Diana Dzhabbar on alto and Ebban Dorsey on tenor, excelled with a sound and approach which pushed the whole show into soulful, spiritual spheres. Jharis Yokley, José’s drummer who opened the show with a solo set (which we missed), was prominent throughout the set with heavy jazz-meets-hip hop drumming and a flow which perfectly suited the tracks.
There was a lot of neo-soul and r&b on songs like “On & On”, “Gone Baby, Don’t Be Long” and “Didn’t Cha Know” and hip-hop on “The Healer”, with José showcasing his amazingly versatile and playful voice, at once playing around with distortions which weren’t really necessary, but always charming and in total control, even when he was recording his members on stage and the audience with his cell phone during instrumental passages and thus, making the involuntary connection to Erykah’s 2015 album “But You Caint Use My Phone”.Follow: