Jose James - Black MagicBrownswood Recordings
Unless you took up residence on the moon two years ago, you surely were among those who celebrated a new voice in Jazz. With “The Dreamer”, Jose James serenaded jazz and non-jazz lovers with a voice not heard since the likes of Johnny Hartman. His velvet tone coupled with outstanding compositions made “The Dreamer” a huge hit. Two years later, Jose returns with “Black Magic” and it’s clear that he’s intent on not reinventing the wheel. Instead he steps out of the box and crafts a gorgeous disc filled with a variety of compositional styles that embarks on an exploration of deep spiritual love and the joy that it brings. The disc starts out with “Code”. The flying Lotus production is a down-tempo hypnotic groover that will have your head nodding within seconds. From this point on, love and sensuality permeates throughout the disc. “Touch” is an intimate portrayal of a man expressing his deep feelings for his mate. Pianist Gideon Van Gelder, who produced and arranged the tune, lays down a beautiful melody for Jose to work his eh, magic. No pun intended. “Promise You Love” is an up-tempo beat driven gem that’s produced by DJ Mitsu The Beats and features Jordana De Lovely on accompanying vocals and Takuya Kuroda on trumpet. “The greater Good” is a soft jazzy number that features precision horn arrangements as well as Gideon on fender Rhodes while Jose courts a woman who may ultimately be the special lady he desires. Jordana appears again on the Taylor McFerrin produced “Love Conversation”, a track that oozes warmth and sensitivity exchanged between two lovers. “No Tellin” may be the only track that resembles anything close to “The Dreamer”. Produced by James, this is a haunting ballad arranged in a trio format that also features him on piano as well. Whatever you do, don’t bother comparing the two discs. Clearly “Black Magic” stands on it’s own as an exceptional record by a rising star. Without a doubt you need this in your collection.
Reg Dancy, 03/10
Jose James - No Beginning No EndBlue Note
Jose James wants this to be clear; he’s no longer a Jazz singer. Despite this being his debut for the historical Jazz label known as Blue Note, he’s broken free of the restrictions that come with the title so that he can make music without boundaries. Rest assured that after one listen to “No Beginnings No End”, you’ll applaud the direction he is heading in. James new release fuses elements of soul, hip-hop and folk brought to life by the likes of Robert Glasper, Chris Dave, bassist Pino Palladino and others. The disc kicks off with “It’s All Over Your Body”, a sultry down-tempo tune with a thick groove that oozes warmth and sensuality. “Do You Feel” is a bluesy soul burner that features a wonderful solo from Pianist Kris Bowers. James also performs duets with two talented vocalists here as well. Moroccan singer Hindi Zahra’s voice blends seamlessly with James on “Sword & Gun” and Emily King on the lovely “Heaven On The Ground”. King, who wrote the latter, also wrote the folk flavored “Come To My Door” as well. Jose James sets the mood for love and the high level of quality compositions that make up this superb disc will put you in the mood, rest assured.
Reg Dancy, 02/13
Jose James - The DreamerBrownswood Recordings
Fresh for Gilles Peterson's Brownswood label is the stunning debut long player from Jose James. Jose possesses a distinctive smoky quality to his voice which sits perfectly on this 10 track selection of largely down-tempo jazz works. 'The Dreamer' which initially appeared on 'Brownswood Bubblers Vol. 1' is present and correct along with the original mix of 'Blackeyed Susan'. Other highlights include 'Love', a slightly funkier outing with a live, almost drum 'n' bass rhythm and an inspired version of 'Nola' originally performed by Bill Lee and Ronnie Dyson on the Spike Lee movie soundtrack 'She's Gotta Have It'. Touch down anywhere on this album though and you won't be disappointed. If I had to make one slight criticism it would be that 'Equinox' and 'Resolution' from the limited edition 10" haven't made it on to the set.
Andy Allen, 12/07
Josef Leimberg - Astral ProgressionsWorld Galaxy
If we've learned anything musically within the last two years, it's that the LA music scene has exploded like no other area. Trumpeter Josef Leimberg has been right in the middle of the scene, having worked with everyone from Kamasi Washington, Miguel Atwood Ferguson and Kendrick Lamar just to name a few. With his debut "Astral Progressions" he's poised to make himself a household name. Leimberg has brought along some of his friends who help share his vision. "Interstellar Universe" features the aforementioned Washington on Tenor Sax and embodies the big sound in the form of strings and a chorus found on his recent recording "The Epic". Georgia Anne Muldrow sounds right at home on the cosmic sounds of "As I Think Of You". Other notable tracks are "Between Us 2" featuring Bilal and the title track featuring Kurupt. You'll no doubt want to hop on board this pleasant journey of celestial vibes and interstellar sounds. Leimberg's compositions seamlessly weaves elements of soul, jazz and hip-hop while incorporating his own sound. Thanks to this wonderful record, his audience is poised to grow at a rapid rate.
Reg Dancy, 01/17
Joy Denalane - Born And RaisedNesola Records/Four Music
Daughter of a South African father and a German mother, Denalane was born and raised in Berlin, and yet her singing voice is as American as they come. In the Mary J. Blige mould, she has a big, powerful sound that is just bursting with soul and which straddles perfectly the line between genuine R&B and a more commercially minded approach. With only three guest vocalists on the album, the spotlight is well and truly focused on Denalane's talent, but the fact that one of those guests is Lupe Fiasco and another is Raekwon shows that there was no messing around here. Undoubtedly, the label/production team hoped and fully intended for 'Born And Raised' to achieve global success, and a couple of flaky ballads and fluffy fillers notwithstanding, it seems that they may just get their wish.
Tom Breslin, 05/07
Joyce - TudoFar Out
It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since we heard a new release from the incomparable Joyce. The Brazilian songstress’s rich tone has resulted in countless quality recordings and her latest release is no exception. “Tudo”, meaning ‘everything’ in Portuguese showcases her beautiful voice over an assortment of breezy compositions. Among the highlights are “Bolou”, a beautiful blend of acoustic guitar sublime piano melodies. Other delights are “Domingo De Manha”, “Dor de Amore Agua”and “Sem Poder Dancar” is blissful Bossa Nova. Joyce has always been surrounded by musicians and the music throughout “Tudo” is superb. Simply stated Joyce has picked up where she left off with another triumph that will lift your spirits and tantalize your eardrums.
Reg Dancy, 04/13
Joyce With Dori Caymmi - Rio BahiaFar Out Recordings
One thing for sure, you can never go wrong when purchasing any of Joyce’s albums and believe me there’s a lot out there. This time Joyce has brought in guest Dori Caymmi who plays guitar and sings on most of the tracks, which works beautifully with Joyce’s vocals. The whole album is truly something special, with every single track worth its weight in gold. If you’re a vinyl junkie, keep an eye out for the very limited 7” featuring “Rio Bahia” and “The Colours of Joy”.
Simon Harrison, 12/05
Joyce, Nana Vasconcelos & Mauricio Maestro - Visions of DawnFar Out Recordings
You have to give credit to the good folks at Far out recordings for uncovering this classic recording. Thirty years ago, legendary Brazilian singer Joyce, Nana Vasconcelas and Mauricio Mae recorded the sublime masterpiece called “Visions of Dawn”. The soothing vocals of Joyce combined with the percussion artistry of Nana Vasconcelas create dreamy compositions of bossa and samba that will warm your heart. Mauricio Mae produced, provides vocals and plays guitar on all tracks as well. The disc opens with “Banana” a melancholy Brazilian folk gem that features Joyce’s luscious vocals over a simmering acoustic guitar. Other highlights include “Nacional Kid”, a warm sun-drenched samba number and “Memorias Do Porvir”. This is a short but sweet performance as the entire disc is only around 35 minutes. Recorded in Paris, “Visions of Dawn” is a wonderful collection of timeless recordings from one of Brazil’s treasured vocalists. This is essential listening.
Reg Dancy, 04/09
Jukka Eskola - Jukka EskolaFree Agent
Not only is flugelhornist / trumpeter Jukka Eskola an integral part of The Five Corners Quintet but he's also worked with other top Finnish artists such as NuSpirit Helsinki, Teddy Rok Seven, Quintessence and Jimi Tenor. On this his self titled debut solo outing he's accompanied by Jukkis Uotila on electric piano, along with fellow TFCQ contributors Antti Lotjonen, Teppo Makynen (Teddy Rok) and Timo Lassey on bass, drums and saxophone / flute respectively. He impressed earlier this year with the 12" for Ricky-Tick, which featured the jazz dancers '1974' and 'Buttercup'. Both tracks are included here and on first listen are the standouts. However spend a little time with this disc and you'll discover the delights of the Freddie Hubbard influenced 'Kulo', as well as 'Duudamdej' and 'Timber Up', two funky fusion pieces. The later features some awesome drum breaks and keys reminiscent of those on Roy Ayers's 'Everybody Loves The Sunshine'.
Andy Allen, 12/05
Jukka Eskola - Orquesta BossaSchema Records
The aptly titled "Orquesta Bossa" by Trumpeter Jukka Eskola is a soothing atmospheric bossa with strings. Recorded live on a 8-track recorder, Eskola captures the essence of sixties bossa effortlessly. Highlights include the uplifting "Bolly Beat". "Chester-Le-Street" is a funky string laden Bossa that ends with beautiful vamp. "And The Days Passed By" is one of many gentle recordings that demonstrate Eskola's gift of creating adoring melodies. "Wien" is the only vocal recording here and it features the beautiful vocals of Chihiro. This is an intimate recording filled with strong performances from the string quartet as well as Eskola's Quintet. For his part Eskola handles his solos with warmth and tenderness and the result is an engaging record worthy of repeated listens.
Reg Dancy, 12/13