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Jose James slides from smooth soul to bona fide rock at World Cafe Live

José James | Photo By Noah Silvestry | silvestography.com
José James | Photo By Noah Silvestry | silvestography.com

José James could best be described as a musical presence, rather than simply an artist. He’s done everything from latin to hip hop, from jazz to soul, and he’s done it extremely well. His voice is nothing short of classic, and his band is one of the tightest in the business. So what happens when the first show of his 2014 tour features music from his forthcoming album, While You Were Sleeping, a bona fide rock project?

After warming up an intimate crowd with a soulful opener, James introduced his project and keyboardist Kris Bowers dished out some sizzling warm keyboard oscillation. “If you ain’t trying to make babies to this song, y’all better leave,” joked James. The title track of James’ new project, “While You Were Sleeping” unabashedly evokes the acoustic rock goodness of Nirvana’s “Oh Me”. It cannot be ignored that José James is the king of making the works of his musical influences his own, be it borrowing Freddy Hubbard’s chef d’oeuvre groove of “Red Clay” for his free-styling backbone, “Park Bench People” (which featured a mind-blowing guitar solo from Brad Williams) or the melody of Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon” for an interlude on “Trouble” (both of which were rock solid live).

In any case, James’ new sound took some getting used to. Maybe it was that James’ trumpeter, Takuya Kuroda, was missing from the mix (Kuroda is on a tour of his own), or that the band just hasn’t had enough time with the new material. Don’t get me wrong; everything James and his band played was musically interesting, sonically rich and generally killer, which is kind of what we’ve come to expect. One song drew from Buddhist philosophies and featured a jazzy twist on a classic blues structure. Another based on Muslim spiritual culture eschewed funkier rhythms and grooves in favor of crisp synth textures and a distorted, rocking chorus.

Opening for José James was, well, his band. Read: this is a good thing. Led by adroit keyboardist Kris Bowers and joined by ebullient singer Julia Easterlin, the group grooved its way through a diversified set featuring some clever covers of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” and The Roots’ “A Piece of Light”. Bowers and company filled a near-empty room with luscious sound and proved that the young jazz world has some new tricks up its sleeve.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: PAWS at Boot and Saddle, Jose James at World Cafe Live, Protomartyr with Amanda X at Kung Fu Necktie

Paws | Photo by Martin Barker
Paws | Photo by Martin Barker

Glasgow-based power trio PAWS are wasting no time in following up their debut LP with the new Youth Culture Forever, out via FatCat Records on May 6th. The band is built on very 90s walls of sound (think Yo La Tengo, Sonic Youth, Superchunk) but cut with a very personal lyrical perspective that shines through at their rare quiet moments. Below, get an acoustic taste of “Tongues” from the new album, and find tickets and information about tonight’s tour kickoff show at Boot and Saddle with We Are Scientists here.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Kopecky Family Band at TLA, Jose James at World Cafe Live, Luscious Jackson at Union Transfer, and more

Kopecky Family Band | via Facebook

The Nashville natives of Kopecky Family Band will be headlining the TLA tonight, just one stop on a tour that is taking them around North America for the remainder of the year. Their full indie sound is created with the use of keyboards, horns, and cello in addition to the basic band set up. Their somewhat recent releaseKids Raising Kids, opens with the spunky lyrics “Oh! my wandering eyes / nothing’s gonna take me by surprise!” that are delivered in harmony over bluesy riffs and slowly marching drums. Sure to be an upbeat performance, get out to see Kopecky Family band, especially since they’ll be supported by California-bound locals Cheers Elephant. Find tickets to the show here, and pick up their album here.

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XPoNential Fest: Jose James plays the River Stage

Photo by Eric Ashleigh
Photo by Eric Ashleigh

Jose James slowed down the tempo today at the River Stage of the XPoNential Music Festival with his jazz, hip hop blend and smooth vocals. Feeling the groove of the audience, James unexpectedly covered Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone” mentioning right before that the song was not on the original set list. Giving each member a long, fluid solo with every song, James ended his set with “Do You Feel,” including an unbroken bass/vocal solo by James’ bassist, Solomon Dorsey. His most recent album, No Beginning No End, was released January of 2013. See photos of the performance in the gallery below and read the setlist after the jump.

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Non-COMM Recap: Jose James brought smooth sounds to the World Cafe Live stage (photos)

Singer and songwriter José James and his his impressive backing band brought smooth, jazzy and eclectic sounds to Non-COMM last weekend. James released his album No Beginning, No End on Blue Note Records in January and worked through an assortment of songs from it during his set, as well as a winning cover of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” (the second cover of it we heard during the Non-COMM weekend). Check out a gallery of photos from his set above, and see more of Joe Del Tufo’s Non-COMM coverage here.

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