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José James | The Dreamer – [Brownswood Recordings, 2008]

josé james_dreamer

José James, The Dreamer

Brooklyn based, half-Irish and half-Panamanian José James sounds like a soulful cross between Gil Scott Heron, Terry Callier and Kurt Elling. He’s definitely a jazz singer and we don’t seem to have enough of those, especially younger ones to take the form forward. He sings here as part of a basic quartet made up of him, Nori Ochiai on piano, Alexi David on bass and Steve Lyman on drums – though Luke Damrosch plays drums on “The Dreamer” and “blackeyedsusan” and Junior Mance plays piano on “Spirits Up Above“.

There’s another slight variation to the line-up (and general vibe of the album) on “Park Bench People“, where Ryan Blum takes up keyboards and Gal Ben Haim plays guitar. Blum also plays keys on the album closer, the drum & bass-inspired “Love“. Omar Abdukarim also plays trumpet albeit, on the title track only.

It isn’t the most exciting album I’ve ever heard (James just doesn’t have the vocal range for that and I’m grateful that “Love” was included here) but it’s certainly very interesting and what he may lack in vocal range, he more than makes up for in tone and warmth. I’d never heard of José James before (I believe it was my buddy Joe who pointed him out to me – thanks Joe!) and I think this is his first album. What I can’t take away from the man however, is his undeniable songwriting, producing and arranging talent and I also have to give him respect for deciding to go this route when pop or r&b could have potentially offered him so much more, so much more quickly. He obviously loves and believes in what he’s doing. He can only get better from here and I look forward to that. Definitely one to look out for.

Mostly produced and arranged by James himself and executive produced by no other than the legendary Giles Peterson – a man who knows a thing or two about good music if anyone does – “The Dreamer” could be the ideal soundtrack to your summer family gatherings, card games, cocktails parties, or that midnight hour. Highly recommended. —Olukayode Balogum

..:: Source: Amazon.com ::..