sun 23/02/2020

CD: José James - No Beginning No End | reviews, news & interviews

CD: José James - No Beginning No End

CD: José James - No Beginning No End

The Brooklyn singer-songwriter's mix of hip-hop, jazz and classic R&B transcends genre

Blessed with the very finest collaborators: José James

On this debut album for Blue Note, Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter José James effortlessly blends the beat-driven mien of hip-hop, the surprising transitions of jazz and the raw emotion of classic R&B to produce his strongest statement to date. Following three critically acclaimed albums for the Brownswood and Verve labels, James seems to have discovered the key to making the simple resonate.

With its oh-so-smooth foundation of bass, Fender Rhodes and tight horn stabs, the single “Trouble” sees him channelling the spirits of Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke. The singer is blessed with the very finest collaborators, evidenced by the gospel-flavoured “Do You Feel” with a beautifully crafted solo from pianist Kris Bowers (winner of the 2011 Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition).

Penned at New York's famed Village Vanguard jazz club, “Vanguard” has co-writer Robert Glasper's singular looping harmonies and rhythmic stamp all over it, while on a brace of radio-friendly ballads, “Come To My Door” and “Heaven On The Ground” - one of them surely destined for single release - James hooks up again with long-standing collaborator Emily King. Featuring the French-Moroccan singer Hindhi Zahra, the pulsating “Sword & Gun” is constructed over layered percussion – hypnotically repeating, Gnawa-type hand claps are strongly to the fore – and a rippling, two-chord acoustic guitar riff. It suggests that James should venture out of his comfort zone more often.

Written with bassist and co-producer Pino Palladino, the conversational “Make It Right” is full of rhythmic subtleties and features a gorgeous bridge that powerfully evokes Stevie Wonder's Innervisions. Palladino is very much the key presence on the date, appearing on 10 of the album's 11 tracks. James performs the debut single on Late Night with David Letterman this evening - check it out and see what all the fuss is about.

Watch José James perform "Trouble"

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters