JOSE JAMES / “Facing East Concert”

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I’ve been writing lyrics to Coltrane’s compositions for the past 13 years. I can’t just sing anything, but with Trane’s music it just feels right.
—Jose James
You’ll know it when you hear it.

If Trane means anything deep to you. If you know this music. Are at all inclined toward the spirit world. Then you will certainly enjoy this concert.


Vocalist Jose James is currently one of the most popular and most versatile male vocalists. I understand and appreciate that Jose James covers a lot of bases, however, he is best when he is full out in a jazz mode accompanied by like-minded musicians.

There are so many things to say about this concert. Jazz lives. Yes, there are Europeans playing jazz at a very high level. On what would have been Trane’s 83th birthday, James and Neve pulled together what was supposed to be a one-off that has now morphed into a mini-tour of four European capitals and a future recording for Verve Records.

Verve really ought to bless us and put this concert out.

There are a gazillion Coltrane tributes. This is one of the best that I’ve heard or heard of. Easily.
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The Belgian pianist Jef Neve admirably leads the band. His passionate and precise playing sparkles throughout. Listen to that opening for “Lush Life.” Listen to the duet with Jose on “Lush Life.” Listen. They have a whole album of duet standards in the can for future release in 2010. “Lush Life” caught me by surprise. I didn’t hear it coming until they got into it. This doesn’t replace Trane and Hartman but rather adds to it. Praises are due Neve.
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Michel Campagna on saxophone and flute had the unenviable job of playing the Coltrane part. So what he did was do the feeling of the music instead of trying to replicate Trane (or, since he was also playing flute, catching some of Eric Dolphy). Campagna makes you appreciate the music without feeling like you’re missing something or that he is missing something. His playing sounds to me like prayers.
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If Campagna had it hard, drummer Richard Spaven had it impossible. Although so many tried, nobody drummed like Elvin Jones. Again, wisdom being the better part of valor, Spaven doesn’t try to be Elvin. He’s much, much lighter. Very sensitive to the underlying rhythms, especially rich in his cymbal work.
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Neville Malcom is a monster, quietly holding down the bass. With this guy’s heartbeat bass sound strong as a beacon in the night, everybody always knows where one is. He doesn’t play a lot of notes. He plays all the right notes. Everywhere the music goes—and they go a lot of places—regardless of the speed of the flight or how out they get, you feel the bass pulse, steady centering the music.

I’m a big fan of Dwight Tribble as the leading jazz vocalist on today’s scene but damn Dwight, you got some righteous competition in Jose James who came up with the concept for this one.

When I heard James’ Paradiso set a couple of years back, I knew then that James was able to pull out the best from the musicians with whom he shared the stage.

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The music of Facing East easily exceeds the previous impressive work. Jose James and the Jef Neve Quartet are utterly spectacular in their interpretations of John Coltrane compositions. And though he is singing less than half the time, Jose James sets the tone and establishes the emotional center to a concert that is a spiritual meditation and prayer for peace, love and perfection throughout all creation. I know that James is interested in a wide range of music but this achievement ought to be followed by further jazz explorations. The music needs this freshness. The world needs this music.

You will feel much, much better about the world and about your life if you listen to music of this caliber everyday. Guaranteed. The music is medicinal. Good for you—and in these days and times we sure enough needs all the healing we can get.

I had intended to excerpt the concert but it felt wrong chopping up the concert into bite-sized bits. So here is the whole concert. Plus, go here to hear and see the whole concert.

More to come… life is good.

—Kalamu ya Salaam

This entry was posted on Monday, December 28th, 2009 at 1:50 am and is filed under Cover. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

10 Responses to “JOSE JAMES / “Facing East Concert””

John Washington Says:
December 28th, 2009 at 8:56 am

Thanx for this concert, Kalamu. Happy you left it unedited. Wonderful music!

jetrocket Says:
December 29th, 2009 at 8:29 am

I’m so glad that you are sharing this. I checked it out during the early fall when it was circulated and thought it was amongst the best of the year’s musical offerings. I hope Verve releases this but I thought the JC estate did not give its permission. Also I also love Dwight Trible — check out his recent work with Build An Ark – Love Pt.1

taro nombei Says:
December 29th, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Looking forward to this so much.
Thank you for all the music and knowledge and experience you have shared with us this year and more.
Best wishes for 2010 — may it bring joy, good health and peace.

cruzcontrol Says:
December 29th, 2009 at 1:32 pm

Wow is this wonderful and right on time! Thanks so much Kalamu, what a gift!
Blessed sounds to prepare for what’s ahead.
Happy New Year … come on 2010!

Mtume Says:
December 29th, 2009 at 7:53 pm

I have eight versions of “Naima” in my iTunes that I _really_ like and I’ve easily heard another ten or so that I like some but not enough to hold on to. All that, and Jose _still_ came up with a new and beautiful way to rock that melody. You gotta love it….

Mtume Says:
December 29th, 2009 at 8:07 pm

I ain’t trying to blow up your comment box Baba, but now I’m listening to “Equinox,” and damn, my man is bringing it! … I’m just hoping and praying that the new album won’t be completely on some ol’ grown ‘n sexy shit. We want the jazz, Jose. Jazz.

R. Joyce Johnson Says:
December 29th, 2009 at 10:07 pm

Reverence is what he gives when he faces East. His new one BlackMagic still shines the light. I believe as he music is. Thank you for all you share with us.

lebo Says:
December 31st, 2009 at 4:54 pm

“Adds to Trane and Hartman” Really? ***raises left eyebrow*** Ok. Lemme go check this out.

Rick Says:
April 3rd, 2011 at 6:47 am

This is a beautiful album. Don’t try comparing it to Coltrane’s work. Just enjoy the hommage. And a great band

terrifitc blog Says:
October 19th, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Just spent the last hour checking out your posts. great stuff

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