I have seen José James before, of which his own show felt like a cross between artist and activism. It is clear that José James sees music as a social power, and thus uses it as a social reflector. Yet, his dedication to Bill Withers as Le Poisson Rouge showed listeners that José James also admires music for its fun.
José James – Same Love That Made Me Laugh
It should come as no surprise that José James relishes a chance to get spiritual. You do not try to wake up society with your music if you do not feel your soul has been awakened by it, as well. Yet, the night felt dedicated to waking people up to their capacity to revel in sound rather than use it to rebel. While Bill Withers had his socially purveying tracks, they all stemmed from the universal idea of love, and how beautiful it is when you feel “Grandma’s Hands”, play i a “Lovely Day”, or when you simply “Lean On Me”. Hit after hit, the night was a beautiful dedication to Bill Withers. The audience was reminded of how much this man offered to music by influencing artists like, José James, who never left a song without a vocal riff or instrumental break.
José James – Better Off Dead
While José James joked about how little his band had practiced, it left a serious impression upon me. Their ability to improvise and let their hearts guide their chords proved the reason music reflects humanity is because it lightens it. “WOOHOOO’s” and “YEAHHH’s” colored the night as people closed their eyes and let Nate Smith on drums and the other Southern gents have their moments when it felt like nobody was in the room but Music. It was as if she had become an entity perusing the stage and asking us all if we loved her, to which no one did quite like José James. He could not stop breaking, rebuilding, relishing, and gritting his vocal notes as if he was chopping Bill Withers’ songs like fruits. More than his last show, I really got to see the raw magnetism of his vocal talent.
José James – Hope She’ll Be Happier
Something about covering fellow artist allows you to be oddly freer. Sure, you want to do them justice, but there was a warmness and inclusiveness to Bill Withers’ sound that made José James an impeccable choice in summoning his spirit. From “Ain’t No Sunshine” to “Hope She’ll Be Happier”,there were moments when James, literally, sounded like Withers. It gave me chills to hear how he girded in yearning Withers’ lyrics to emote the natural we all have to love and be loved. It is a gorgeous thing to want that we, too often, deny ourselves the pleasure. Yet, if James’ last album, Love in a Time of Madness, asked us to love through insanity, then his shows dedicated to Bill Withers asks us to remember the wisdom this virtue offers it. Love is our greatest teacher, and José James its giving its lessons on these dates:
2/5: New York, NY @ Blue Note Jazz Club
2/6: New York, NY @ Blue Note Jazz Club
2/7: New York, NY @ Blue Note Jazz Club
2/8: New York, NY @ Blue Note Jazz Club Click Here For More Information