José James Celebrates Bill Withers
Like a painter that uses the entire range of his color palette, vocalist Jose James has spent the last ten years working in a wide variety of musical arenas - jazz, soul, R&B, hip hop, pop, electronica, and experimental music. His albums have ranged from a brilliant tribute to Billie Holiday, all the way to a very personal and modern work called "Love In A Time Of Madness." One music critic has noted that his albums are like "a box of chocolates." One thing though, whatever Jose James does, he does it really well.
He brought his latest musical incarnation to our studios in Seattle, and wowed our studio audience with a set of tunes all written by the great pop/soul singer Bill Withers.
James thinks Withers is one of the landmark pop music composers of the 20th century, putting him in company with Duke Ellington and Stevie Wonder. That night he performed a whole set of Withers tunes at Jazz Alley, and has an upcoming tribute album coming out in the fall on Blue Note Records.
Our session starts out with a soulful rendition of "Grandma's Hands." He then he slows it down for a beautiful performance of the ballad "Hello Like Before," which Withers considered his favorite song. The set wraps up with one of the classics "Ain't No Sunshine.”
James has definitely channeled some of Withers' own vocal riffs and intonation, but also blends his own idiosyncratic perspective to the mix. Along with James on vocals and acoustic guitar, we also heard some amazingly tasteful electric guitar work from band mate Brad Allen Williams.