52 Church street
MA, 02138

José James – Tickets – The Sinclair – Cambridge, MA – March 21st, 2013

José James

José James

Jesse Dee

Thu, March 21, 2013

7:00 pm


Tickets Available at the Door

This event is 18 and over

The Sinclair is general admission standing room only.
Tickets available at TICKETMASTER.COM, or by phone at 800-745-3000. No service charge on tickets purchased in person at The Sinclair Box office Tuesdays-Saturdays 12-7PM, or at the Royale box office Fridays from 12-6PM.

José James
José James
“No Beginning No End sums up how I feel about music right now,” says José James of his Blue Note Records debut. “I don’t want to be confined to any particular style. I decided I didn’t want to be considered a jazz singer anymore and that was really freeing. Once I realized that jazz singing is just something that I do and it’s just a label, it freed me as an artist to just write without any boundaries.”

No Beginning No End is a seamless musical experience that moves between different styles with remarkable fluidity, bound together by James’ transcendent voice. It marks a new chapter in the artistic journey of the 33-year-old singer/songwriter. Conceived, recorded and produced independently without any recording contract, the album is his most personal statement yet.

Along the way, he recruited a mighty team of collaborators that include noted producer/bassist Pino Palladino; pianist/composer and fellow Blue Note artist Robert Glasper; R&B singer/songwriter/guitarist Emily King; international French-Moroccan singing star Hindi Zahra; and the 2011 Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition winner Kris Bowers. “I feel like this is my first album as an artist,” James says, “This is the first time in which there were no label, no A&R – nothing but myself and my relationship and history with my music.”

James has already established himself as a trailblazer for his intoxicating blend of jazz, hip-hop, R&B and electronica from his previous three albums. His 2008 debut The Dreamer and its 2010 follow-up, BlackMagic – both produced by the world-renowned DJ Gilles Peterson – transformed the Minneapolis-born, New York-based singer into an underground sensation in both the modern jazz and DJ culture scenes. His musical path follows its own rhyme and reason. James is a musical omnivore, an artist that resists being pigeonholed, equally at ease on stage with jazz legend McCoy Tyner as he is in the studio with rapper Oh No or electronica pioneer Flying Lotus.

Ben Ratliff described James’ musical magic in a February 2012 edition of The New York Times: “He’s a romantic baritone with a deep-funk band, stretching out songs, evoking both the ’70s of Roberta Flack and Gil Scott-Heron and the ’90s and oughts of J Dilla,” then making smart comparisons to R&B superstar D’Angelo but distinguishing James as “a very different kind of singer than D’Angelo. He’s a little more acoustic singer-songwriter, a little more delicate.”

On No Beginning No End, James shows an even deeper regard for pop song structures while retaining the “element of surprise” associated with jazz. Much of the music draws upon James’ love for the softer sounds of late-‘60s and ’70s R&B, particularly the music of Flack, Donny Hathaway and Marvin Gaye. In fact, it was meeting Gaye’s legendary collaborator Leon Ware, who produced Gaye’s seminal 1976 LP I Want You, that inspired James to write the lamenting “Bird of Space.” “Leon really brought me back to a place that inspired my music, just when I was learning about how artists really worked together,” James says. “’Bird of Space’ goes back to The Dreamer with a very intimate, sensual atmosphere and with the musical cycle looping. That’s probably my most personal song in terms of lyrics.”

Like “Bird of Space,” the gospel-flavored “Do You Feel” is another composition in which James composed both the music and lyrics. It features a soulful Ray Charles-inspired piano solo from Bowers. “I just sat at the piano and that song came out,” James recalls, “When I did the bridge, it got really interesting. I love songs that are simple on the outside then go somewhere very unexpected on the inside.”

In addition to Ware, another major catalyst for the new project was Palladino. While James was living in London, Palladino invited him over for a writing session. The bassist had a series of chords that he wanted to share. Within 20 minutes, the two came up with the snapping “Make It Right,” which also features some of James’ longtime band mates – drummer Richard Spaven, keyboardist Grant Windsor, trombonist Corey King, trumpeter Takuya Kuroda, and guitarist Jeremy Most.

James says that Palladino was so excited about the results of “Make It Right” that he enlisted himself as a producer of the forthcoming album. As some of the sessions began to unfold at The Magic Shop studios in New York City, James met Brian Bender, who eventually became another co-producer on the album. “Both had really different roles. Pino’s role really dealt with the quality of the musicianship. That quality went way up in comparison to my other works,” James explains, “Brian really helped me with the mixing; he created a great sonic world in which an artist can step into.”

With Palladino, James also wrote the sleek album opener, “It’s All Over Your Body” with its voodoo horn jabs and the bewitching title-track, which displays James’ gift of crooning ballads at crawling tempos. James refers to “No Beginning No End” as the “baby-maker” song on the album. It features him at his most sensual. “I wanted it to sound like an internal conversation,” James explains, “The song really deals with the struggles of being away from your loved one on the road, while at the same time, being so close to something that you love, which is the music. That lifestyle is not for everyone, but there is a lot of curious poetry in that life, a lot of loneliness too.”

With Scott Jacoby, James penned “Trouble,” an infectious mid-tempo jam, noted for its initial bass line reminiscent of Bill Withers before the song morphs into a strutting Sly Stone vibe. James says that the prowling lyrics and menacing vibe connects him to R&B legends such as Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye and Al Green – noteworthy “troubled” soul men. “I think we really underestimate how much of emotional trailblazers they were,” James says. “They opened up channels of male vulnerability and sensitivity within black music.”

Several other songs on No Beginning No End are the result of collaborations with different artists. As the title hints, the fetching “Vanguard” was written at the famed Village Vanguard with Glasper. “We sat down at that famous piano and he gave me those chords. It was a real blessing to work with him in that particular way,” James recalls. In addition to showcasing Glasper’s hypnotic Fender Rhodes on the track, Glasper’s Experiment band drummer Chris Dave gives the song his signature rhythmic spark.

The gentle ballads “Come to My Door” and “Heaven on the Ground” were both written by the singer/songwriter/guitarist Emily King, a frequent collaborator of James’. The former tune was actually written for King’s Grammy-nominated 2006 debut, East Side Story, but it didn’t make the final cut. “It’s such a beautiful and simple song. I really wanted to express something very plainly. Previously, I’ve been really interested in abstraction and writing lyrics that could be multi-dimensional but ‘Come to My Door’ is a straight-up pop song.” The latter is a duet with King that she wrote specifically for James.

The mesmerizing “Sword + Gun” with its North African-flavored percussion and Fela-esque bass line is another great duet – this time with French-Moroccan singer Hindi Zahra. Here, James ventured farthest from his comfort zone. “That was me going into Hindi’s world,” James explains, “Culturally it was very interesting because we were dealing with the Gnawa music from Morocco, where they play all this indigenous percussion. It was very communal. We wanted to write a song that was beyond both of us.”

The album concludes with the stunning ballad “Tomorrow” featuring accompaniment by Bowers on piano and a string section arranged by Jules Buckley. James accredits famed R&B/funk keyboardist/singer Amp Fiddler as the music’s composer. When James initially collaborated in the studio with Fiddler, he recorded Fiddler improvising rhapsodically at the piano. Later James had Bowers render that piano part as the basis of “Tomorrow.” “Lyrically the song is about transformation and acknowledging the pain that one feels when you lose someone and wanting to transcend that pain,” James says. “I was also listening to a lot of Nick Drake and decided to add a string quartet to give it joy.”
Jesse Dee
Jesse Dee
“Tough-but-tender soul and rollicking, rootsy R&B...infectious, revival-meeting furor” –Boston Globe

Boston’s Jesse Dee is a singing, songwriting, guitar-playing soul man—a modern day trailblazer inspired by the old school. Dee’s passion is exploring and updating soul music for contemporary audiences. With his warm and honest sound, his instantly memorable melodies and positive, slice-of-life lyrics (evoking the heyday of the Brill Building songwriters), he accomplishes just that. His inventive, hook-filled songs are delivered with buoyant, youthful exuberance. Live, he always brings down the house, and keeps his ever-growing fan base coming back for more. His band lays down driving, infectious grooves while Dee’s expressive vocals put him in a class by himself. On the strength of his fervent live shows, Dee plays to packed clubs in New England and has toured across Europe, earning new fans at every gig. The Boston Herald declares, “Dee has an explosive voice. He possesses a powerful, raspy tenor and an uncanny phrasing ability that can’t be taught.”

Dee won the 2010 Boston Phoenix Music Poll Award for Best R&B Act, both for the strength of his live show and the aftershocks of his 2008 debut CD, Bittersweet Batch (7Not Records/Munich Records). With his new album, On My Mind / In My Heart (AL 4952), his first for Alligator Records, Dee is now poised to break into the minds and hearts of music lovers across the country and around the world. The album, eleven original songs produced by Dee and Jack Younger, is a sweet soul masterpiece full of good vibes and funky, joyful music. Like Sam Cooke, Dee writes about real life with true emotional poetry. His lyrics are set to toe-tapping melodies with horn charts channeling The Memphis Horns and 1970s-era Van Morrison.

Much like an artist painting on canvas (another of his talents), Dee crafts his songs in layers, oftentimes starting with a melody and lyrics, then carefully adding guitar riffs, horn blasts, vocal inflections, or any number of other colors from his musical palette. He fills his songs with a wide variety of textures, allowing listeners to visualize the images he paints with his words. “I’m a music fan first,” Dee says, “so it’s important to me to seek out and create with original ideas. That’s why songwriting is so important, and why I mean every word I write and sing.”

Born in 1980 in Boston, MA, Dee grew up in nearby Arlington. He got his first taste of soul music from local oldies radio station WODS when he was eight years old. As a child, he was drawn to the sounds of The Drifters, The Shirelles, Smokey Robinson, Sam Cooke and other doo wop, Motown and R&B greats. He always loved singing, and would often record made-up tunes into his tape recorder. He sang in school theatre productions and church choir, and was writing songs by his mid-teens. Dee began fronting a band soon after, but didn’t pick up his first guitar until he was 18. With help from his musically inclined father and The Bob Dylan Six-Chord Songbook, he taught himself the instrument well enough to start performing as a solo artist a year later. During this period, Jesse immersed himself in the music of Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson, Solomon Burke, Etta James, James Brown and all the deep soul masters, listening, learning, writing and continuing to hone his craft by playing live every chance he could get.

Dee attended Massachusetts College Of Art And Design, studying illustration, performance, production, mixed-media and composition. He sang with the ten-piece soul ensemble Decifunk, and toured up and down the East Coast. In the early 2000’s he even lent his voice to rock ‘n’ roll band The Dirty Whites before starting his own group. He released his first album, Bittersweet Batch, in 2008, and heads immediately began turning. The New York Daily News awarded the CD a rare four-star review, saying, “I am blown away by what’s coming out of my speakers…remarkable…there isn’t a bad song to be found…upbeat and soulful.”

The success of the CD allowed Dee and his band to travel beyond Boston, making new converts in Washington, DC, New York, Philadelphia, Nashville, and Chicago. He first toured the Netherlands, the UK and Italy in 2009 before heading back again the following two years, this time adding Ireland, Belgium, Germany, France and Spain to his itinerary. Dee has opened for soul greats Al Green, Solomon Burke, Etta James, Bettye LaVette, and blues rockers Los Lobos and the J. Geils Band, and has shared stages many times with fellow soul singer James Hunter.

With his new relationship with Alligator Records, Dee is ready to set the world on fire. He will tour widely, bringing his modern, fun and timeless music to clubs, concert halls and festivals all over the world. Dee is proud of the songs on On My Mind / In My Heart, saying the music is a perfect representation of where he is as an artist. “Soul music is capable of touching the greatest and most diverse group of people,” Dee says. “All the best soul music is based on shared experience. Songs have the ability to affect people, shine a light, lift them up, and push them forward. There’s hope in these songs,” he continues, “and people need that now more than ever.”
Venue Information:
The Sinclair
52 Church St
Cambridge, MA, 02138

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