JOSE JAMES: Black Magic (Label: Brownswood)

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JOSE JAMES: Black Magic

Jazz man, José James debuted in 2007 with the critically acclaimed ‘The Dreamer’ – a collection of low-slung jazz grooves, and this new set starts in the same laid back way with the languid ‘Code’. For the rest, though the sound is a little tougher, even experimental and broad minded soulsters could do worse than check out at least some of the cuts – notably ‘Lay You Down’ and the magnificent ‘Promise In Love’. The former will remind you of Dwele at his best, while the latter has all the qualities to make it a 2010 favourite. The thing’s tight yet laid back and laced with some delightful brass work that harks back to the punctuated way that Burt Bacharach used trumpets… though, of course, totally different to anything Mr. B ever produced. Never mind the comparisons – it’s just a great tune. The beats are tight too on ‘Touch’ but there’s lightness about this one which becomes a real vagueness on ‘Black Magic’ and ‘Detroit Love Letter’. Elsewhere, ‘Love Conversation’ is a sweet duet with the wonderfully-named Jordana de Lovely while ‘Beauty’ is a great, lounge jazz number with striking harmonies. Those tracks are quite out of kilter with the experimental ‘Made For Love’ and the very edgy ‘Warrior’. Both give the LP a real cutting edge and add to the set’s variety… a variety held together by José’s distinct voice. Hear a hint of Terry Callier; hear lots of the nu-soul brigade – like the aforementioned Dwele or even Maxwell. Indeed ‘Black Magic’ is possibly the album Maxwell aspires to, if only he had either the bottle or the imagination to bring it off!
(BB) 3/5