José James – On & On: José James Sings Badu

Its José’s 45th birthday today and he’s giving us a new album as a present. José’s 7-track tribute to the great Erykah Badu just came out today on his own Rainbow Blonde label and features BIGYUKI on piano, keys, and synths, Ben Williams on bass, Jharis Yokley on drums, Ebban Dorsey on alto sax, and Diana Dzhabbar on flute and alto sax. “As an artist and performer Badu has consistently created opportunities for young artists both on and off her stage,” James explains. “It only made 
sense to include the next generation.” And so he did his own versions of Badu tracks, ranging from “On & On” from “Baduizm” (1997) right up to “Gone Baby, Don’t Be Long” and “Out My Mind, Just In Time” from “New Amerykah Part Two: Return Of The Ankh” (2010).

José James "On & On"

Three tracks have already been released as singles in the last several weeks: “The Healer”, haunting and mysterious, with repetitive and effective chords and great sax work, the title track “On & On”, where José shows his strong vocal jazz chops and prowess with an immense versatility, and “Gone Baby, Don’t Be Long”, which could have been recorded in the mid 70s with the Mizell Brothers producing. The sonic palette and production and arrangement on this version is especially rewarding. Brave and adventurous bass playing by Ben here too. I also dig the piano and synth work as well. And the fact that the piece runs for almost eight minutes only adds to the excitement. Great work.

José strips down “Out My Mind, Just In Time” and thus, strengthens the fact how intense and brilliant a composer Erykah really is. The same can be said of “Green Eyes”, which he stretches to an 11-minute straight-ahead late-night jazz ballad. Impeccable and impressive. Seven minutes into the song, he changes to a subdued soul groove. I always loved “Didn’t Cha Know”, staying true to the original in terms of mood and atmosphere here with Ben doing some amazing work. As he does on “Bag Lady”, the album closer, once again dark and brooding.

José and Rainbow Blonde started a bandcamp campaign for a vinyl pressing. They want to hit their goal in about four weeks and so far, it’s looking good. I just did my share as well. The album will be pressed to 180g and marigold-orange vinyl, with photography by world-renowned artist Janette Beckman and design by Hayden Miller in Berlin. The lacquers are cut by the legendary Frank Arkwright at Abbey Road Studios.


José will premiere his new album on a short European trip. Maybe I’ll see you at Paradiso in Amsterdam!

3/1 Brussels – Ancienne Belgique
3/2 Paris – New Morning
3/5 London – Lafayette
3/6 Rotterdam – Annabel
3/7 Amsterdam – Paradiso
3/8 Helsinki – Kulttuuritehdas Korjaamo


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