José James The Dreamer

José James The Dreamer
Of course, it comes as no surprise that a record company headed by the ultra-respected treasure hunter of cool Gilles Peterson would carry a roster equal to his internationally respected tastes, but José James, the latest signing to the DJ’s Brownswood label, still manages to impress on so many levels. Drawing from myriad musical influences that reach out to ’70s soul, hip-hop and even drum & bass, James puts a fresh face on the staunch jazz roots that characterise his debut set The Dreamer, coating each buttery track with a bass-y vocal style that recalls both Andy Bey and Gil Scott Heron. The album’s diversity comes early on with the subtle drum & bass rhythms of album opener "Love” before heading to the thick bass and colourful piano adlibs of the singer’s jazzed-out version of Freestyle Fellowship’s "Park Bench People.” The tense interaction between James’s deceptively laidback form and the double-time musical intensity of "Nola” builds on that theme of multiplicity before the singer returns to his roots with the piano-led simplicity of dreamy album closer "Winterwind.” As first forays go, it doesn’t get much better than this. (Brownswood)