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José James (and Jef Neve) - For All We Know

José James and Jef Neve | For All We Know – [Impluse!, 2010]

For All We Know is the title of the first American album from José James (and Jef Neve). Now that the cover art is in hand, it can truly be said that this is solidly in the Impulse! tradition, both inside and out. In fact, it’s the first album of newly recorded music to be issued on the label in six years.

José has been working out of London for the past few years and has released two albums, The Dreamer and Blackmagic on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood label. He’s built an international following with collaborations with a wide assortment of jazz, club and hip-hop acts, including Basement Jaxx, Nicola Conte, Toshio Matsuura, Jazzanova, Flying Lotus, Christian McBride, Elan Mehler, the Heritage Orchestra, Robert Mitchell, Jazzy Sport and Simbad.

Originally from Minneapolis, José moved to New York where he attended the New School’s prestigious jazz program, studying with instrumental legends Junior Mance and Chico Hamilton, both of whom subsequently invited him to perform on their recordings. While his Brownswood albums combine his deep-rooted jazz sensibility with elements of classic soul, contemporary R&B, hip-hop and drum ‘n’ bass, For All We Know finds James applying his warm, rich baritone to a sterling assortment of timeless jazz and pop standards with piano accompaniment — nothing more — by Neve. The result is an eloquently spare, effortlessly expressive set, with James’ vivid performances and the intimate duo format lending new emotional depth to such classics as “Tenderly,” “Body and Soul,” Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” and Gershwin’s “Embraceable You.”

For All We Know was, for the most part, recorded in a single informal six-hour session at Galaxy Studios in Mol, Belgium. James recalled the experience: “It felt like we’d been playing together forever. I had the next day off, so I said ‘Let’s go in the studio and try to capture some of this vibe.’ Jef booked this really nice studio, we let the tape roll, and that’s the album. There was no producer, no overdubs, and most of the songs were first takes. It wasn’t anything that we thought was gonna turn into a big release,” he continues. “It was just something that we thought was really cool. We just played the songs we love the way we felt them, with no constraints. Playing as a duo is very pure and honest; it’s just you, the piano and silence.”

James is certainly aware of the significance of his new label affiliation and on the cusp of his first U.S. release noted, “”It’s so exciting, and it’s a huge honor to be on Impulse; it’s Trane’s house. I’m very proud of this record, and I love being able to give back to the music that nurtured me.”

Track listing and credits follow.

José James – vocals

Jef Neve – piano

1. Autumn in New York (Vernon Duke)

2. Embraceable You (George Gershwin/Ira Gershwin)

3. Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You (Andy Razaf/Don Redman)

4. Body & Soul (Edward Heyman/Robert Sour/Frank Eyton/Johnny Green)

5. When I Fall in Love (Victor Young/Edward Heyman)

6. Tenderly (Walter Gross/Jack Lawrence)

7. Just Squeeze Me (Duke Ellington/Lee Gaines)

8. Lush Life (Billy Strayhorn)

9. For All We Know (J. Fred Coots/Sam M. Lewis)

Produced by José James and Jef Neve

Executive producer: Dahlia Ambach-Caplin

Recorded at Galaxy Studios on November 18th, 2008 and June 11th, 2009

Mixed by Scott Jacoby at Maze Studios, NYC with Assistant Mix Engineer: Alex Bilowitz.

Mastered by Gene Paul, DB Plus Studios , NYC.