José James' best work in a while is one of the many successful elements of Kneebody saxist Ben Wendel's All One. We loved the classic José groove monster Trouble and think that the American (born Minneapolis, 1978) is one of the great jazz attuned and beyond singers of our times (often inhabiting soul, R&B and funk areas in addition) particularly good on interpreting the glories of the Bill Withers songbook for instance. The setting here captures his exquisite artistry so suitably.
His best album that we know remains 2008's The Dreamer - dig the version of Rahsaan Roland Kirk's 'Spirits Up Above' with the late, great Junior Mance spectacular on piano that makes your shoulders rock side to side - on Gilles Peterson's Brownswood label.
Very memorable live we heard José most optimally and formidably at Ronnie's and scaled up over in Chalk Farm at the Roundhouse during the iTunes festival era - warm love in the room from the standing crowd that night. We also caught him with the iconic McCoy Tyner and Chris Potter at the Barbican.
Hearing 'Tenderly' on the upcoming record, the classic Jack Lawrence and Walter Gross ballad recorded in 1947 by Sarah Vaughan, it is natural to listen to Sassy's version afterwards and certainly there's continuum and individuality. The approach resonates.
Wendel's record (Edition, 21 April) from which it is drawn is overall a thrill, the voicings of the arrangement and ensemble blend alert and bright. To riff on Rahsaan there's no need at all to question feeling the spirit up above in the slightest. SG
MORE READING AND LISTENING:
Ben Wendel on Linda May Han Oh's Walk Against Wind - 2017 review
Ben Wendel, photo: All One sleeve detail