The Artistry of… José James

Blue Note describes the vocalist as a jazz singer for the hip-hop generation.

A solid foundation of influence includes John Coltrane, Marvin Gaye and Billie Holiday, but the groove and the cool is informed by the influence of the soul-jazz sound of the 1970s.

In an LA Times article, James spoke to his ethnicity and in particular to the influence of his mother, describing her as a “total hippie into folk and all that protest stuff.” The richness of those influences — social, cultural and musical — all blend and mix without boundaries or borders in his voice.

In 2015, he released the album Yesterday, I Had the Blues. It was one of many projects by many artists celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Billie Holiday. The album title says a lot about James’s musical sensibilities. The blues, as a sentiment and essence, pervades every musical sound he makes, and although the title starts with the word “yesterday,” truly the soul of James’s singing is an everyday kind of blues, soul and groove.

This is from the LA Times: “Is José James a jazz singer or a soul singer? Old school or new school? A guardian of tradition or a seeker of thrills? Yes, yes and yes.” The voice cradles the listener, surrounding them in a bed of beautiful cool.