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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new jazz singer
Sometime during the early Nineties, Radio One DJ and owner of the Brownswood record label Gilles Peterson gave an interview with a British jazz magazine commenting that his ideal venue would be a small rough and ready dive above a minicab office or similar. The description of the venue perfectly reflected Peterson's take on jazz - more street savvy than the airwaves would...
Published on 15 Jan. 2008 by S. Ahluwalia

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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dissapointing Album after the hype
After the Giles Petersen hype, I was a bit disappointed with this album. I didn't feel it was groundbreaking or all that interesting. In fact it was downright boring background music to me, which is not an opinion I hold about many albums. But that is what comes to mind here.
Published on 23 Mar. 2008 by Ziontrain


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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new jazz singer, 15 Jan. 2008
This review is from: The Dreamer (Audio CD)
Sometime during the early Nineties, Radio One DJ and owner of the Brownswood record label Gilles Peterson gave an interview with a British jazz magazine commenting that his ideal venue would be a small rough and ready dive above a minicab office or similar. The description of the venue perfectly reflected Peterson's take on jazz - more street savvy than the airwaves would allow, a little rough around the edges (and all the better for it) and an air of illicitness. So imagine the scene of walking through a bare taxi office with battered seating, radio receiver static soundtracking the experience and a crudely blu-tacked London map on the wall. You walk to the back of the room and knock on a plain heavy set door. The door opens and you hear.......the dulcet tones of a classic jazz vocalist with a slightly edgy twist. Except the latter requires no imagination, the singer is Jose James.
As 2008 slowly creeps in after 2007, Jose James' smooth and velvety tones slowly seep into the consciousness. Minneapolis-born and Brooklyn-living James' 'The Dreamer' puts a sudden spring in the air for cold, grey January - a soundscape of muted notes with funky bright splashes.
Make no mistake - James has a first class pedigree. The vocalist (and frequent visitor to London) boasts an aged, whisky-tinged voice which knocks you away. He is softly spoken and easy going in nature and has produced a classic jazz vocal album with a modern twist of an impeccable band. It would have been easy (but bland) and more commercially viable to take the retro Radio 2 route, but James has skilfully executed an engaging jazz album for seasoned jazz heads whilst producing quality singing and musicianship which should give the album wider appeal.

Jose James is signed to Radio One DJ, Gilles Peterson's label. What Peterson does best is to discover the new and the different and to promote jazz (new and old). If he has been guilty of slightly resting on his laurels in recent years, both on his show and his club gigs, the Brownswood label answers the criticism. James sits happily with Peterson's patronage and with the label's roster - and it's because of the high standard he has already achieved on this album (remember - only his debut) that he can comfortably be the forebearer of both the type of music that Peterson plays (a scene hard to define - which makes for rich pickings) and, remarkably, of jazz as a whole.

The album works as a complete body of work, so rare in this download age, with James' vocal prowess and tight musicianship sounding easy on the ear without ever hitting smooth jazz territory. The title track is mesmeric in delivery - almost whispered vocals glide over a sweet piano refrain with a haunting trumpet, conjuring up images of a nocturnal, speakeasy basement dive. 'Velvet' is beautiful. Strong enough lyrically to became a jazz standard, Jose James sings with a hint of hurt and conversely hope. Short bursts of drums (at times reminiscent of The Roots' drummer ?uestlove's London-inspired drum n' bass drumming) ease themselves next to strong but sensitive basslines.

Other stand out tracks - Roland Rashan Kirk's 'Spirits Up Above', big with the jazz dance cognoscenti and championed by Gilles Peterson - is a lazy, almost chanty vocal with a touch of the avant garde and an air of a late Sixties nocturnal Harlem jazz session - all blurred images with a riot of colour. 'Nola' is a track which, if you are in the know, is the 'secret key' to an underground jazz world. Originally released on Spike Lee's debut film 'She's Gotta Have It', the track is almost unique by being ignored by the old, more traditional jazz heads and the new more hipper cats. Composed by Spike Lee's dad and Strata East recording artist, Bill Lee (who being a traditionalist refused to ever record with an electric bass), the original soundtrack offers three versions: a stunning vocal version with Ronnie Dyson; and two instrumentals featuring Strata East great Stanley Cowell and Cedar Waton. Jose James' version is almost the equal and is brilliant in execution. 'Park Bench People' is a cover of the groundbreaking Los Angeles based, Hip Hop collective Freestyle Fellowship who criminally lasted just the one album, but fused spoken word and rap with serious jazz overtones. Again James rises to the challenge of covering an established great, if slightly lesser known track, and offers a near match in standard but whilst offering a different refrain.

Finally 'Love' is utterly engaging, with haunting keys, funky drums and the best vocals and is an appropriate end to a scene stealing debut album. Now think of a little rough and ready dive above a mini cab office or similar................

Sanjiv Ahluwalia
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely one to look out for, 1 Mar. 2008
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This review is from: The Dreamer (Audio CD)
Brooklyn based, half-Irish and half-Panamanian José James sounds like a soulful cross between Gil Scott Heron, Terry Callier and Kurt Elling. He's definitely a jazz singer and we don't seem to have enough of those, especially younger ones to take the music form forward. He sings here as part of a basic quartet made up of him, Nori Ochiai on piano, Alexi David on bass and Steve Lyman on drums - though Luke Damrosch plays drums on "The Dreamer" and "blackeyedsusan" and Junior Mance plays piano on "Spirits Up Above".

There's another slight variation to the line-up (and general vibe of the album) on "Park Bench People", where Ryan Blum takes up keyboards and Gal Ben Haim plays guitar. Blum also plays keys on the album closer, the drum & bass-inspired "Love". Omar Abdukarim also plays trumpet albeit, on the title track only.

It isn't the most exciting album I've ever heard (James just doesn't have the vocal range for that and I'm grateful that "Love" was included here) but it's certainly very interesting and what he may lack in vocal range, he more than makes up for in tone and warmth. I'd never heard of José James before (I believe it was my buddy Joe who pointed him out to me - thanks Joe!) and I think this is his first album. What I can't take away from the man however, is his undeniable songwriting, producing and arranging talent and I also have to give him respect for deciding to go this route when pop or r&b could have potentially offered him so much more, so much more quickly. He obviously loves and believes in what he's doing. He can only get better from here and I look forward to that. Definitely one to look out for.

Mostly produced and arranged by James himself and executive produced by no other than the legendary Giles Peterson - a man who knows a thing or two about good music if anyone does - "The Dreamer" could be the ideal soundtrack to your summer family gatherings, card games, cocktails parties, or that midnight hour. Highly recommended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Sultry and soothing jazz arrangements and a great voice, 17 Nov. 2011
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Amillionmiles (Hove, East Sussex) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Dreamer (Audio CD)
When you first hear Jose James, you can only be drawn in by his beautiful deep baritone voice and the soft jazzy piano accompaniments of his debut album "The Dreamer". Indeed, this would be the music I would choose to listen to if I am wanting to spend a little time to myself and just think and daydream the day away.

"The Dreamer" is a really beautifully crafted jazzy opener to the album and has a smooth velvety feel to it. "Velvet" gives off a similar vibe with the exception that it is more experimental and interestingly chaotic. "Blackeyedsusan" is a more rhythmic composition with a beautiful mellow melody and subtle arrangements that remind you of music you would hear in a great jazz club. "Park Bench People" is very funky and the vocal harmonies and phrasing are very good. "Spirits Up Above" has a clear gospel and blues influence and adds variety to this release. "Nola" is quite an intriguing tune as it has a fast paced rhythm accompanied by a slow piano led melody which makes it quite experimental and improvised. "Red" is another fast paced track with a more pronounced jazzy feel and a cool tempo. "Winter Wind" is a mellow and atmospheric track with a sweet melody and a pleasant instrumental piano section. "Desire" is very warm and sentimental with soothing arrangements and vocals. The final track "Love" has a drum and bass style beat and is a very suave and sensual way to end the album.

The blend of Jose's sensual voice and the subtle jazz arrangements make "The Dreamer" a beautiful and personal record. I think that Jose James has a wonderful talent and he will be an artist to watch in the years to come.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Keep dreaming, 17 April 2008
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David Johnson "El Burrito" (Buenos Aires) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Dreamer (Audio CD)
It takes a full twenty minutes into Jose James's debut the The Dreamer before I'm left truly impressed. "Spirits Up Above," is a fine track indeed. New Orleans in its feel with the bluesy collective chant and the rolling piano it branches off into some fine percussion work before lurching back into the chorus. Top stuff. So why did we have to wait so long to escape from the New York dirge of the first four tracks? It's as though at last the record has finally kicked in. "Nola" follows, the vocal far rangier and confident, the band finally letting loose. Another excellent track.
Don't expect to find something radically new on this. James has a soft, sleek delivery that is very easy on the ear, a straight Jazz voice not erring to other singer styles. But somehow it doesn't captivate me. It's a problem, because I actually found the first part of the album quite mundane. It's as though there's James voice and the band - you're listening to one or the other, not both at the same time.
The arranagements are predictably superb, particualrly Alexi David on bass, who carries the flow of the album quite excellently.
Perhaps after all the hype and plugging I'm entitled to feel a little bit disappointed. "The Dreamer" - more accomplished than spectacular.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You're right Gav its brilliant!!, 31 Jan. 2008
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Gavs Dad (Cambridge UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Dreamer (Audio CD)
My son put me on to Jose James -I listened to his myspace before the release. Deserves to be a classic reminds me of very early Al Jarreau (We Got By) and at times Chet Baker-great stuff- go buy it
Wished he had included his covers of Moanin and A Night in Tunisia.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Liquid Honey, 12 Feb. 2008
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This review is from: The Dreamer (Audio CD)
This album is way out there in terms of showing just what a classy guy, new boy, Mr J J is. His inspiration in writing and arranging this blissful music, his subtle, yet true, passion in performing it; along with inspired playing from many superb musicians who accompany him, mark this debut album out as an absolute joy. Buy it. Then you won't be able to live without it either.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars top draw Jazz Vocalist, 6 Feb. 2008
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Mr. G. D. Simmons (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Dreamer (Audio CD)
Superb first CD from new comer Jose James. If your a fan of male Jazz vocals and say you like Mark Murphy, Bill Henderson, or Oscar Brown Jr you will love this CD.
Superb deep toned vocals and he writes pretty good songs as well.
Don't be put off its on a Gilles Peterson label. Giles still likes his Jazz and knows when he is on a winner!
Go get a copy and enjoy
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5.0 out of 5 stars Leicester Bangs Review (2008):, 26 Jan. 2011
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Leicester Bangs "words-R-us" (Leicester, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Dreamer (Audio CD)
Jose James - The Dreamer (Brownswood)
I'm not a big fan of contemporary jazz vocalists - you know who I'm talking about. The guys all seem far too enamored with Sinatra and for the women it's Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday and Nina Simone. It all seems a trifle irrational trying to sound like your hero or heroine. Happily, James is his own man. His debut is a beautifully balanced collection of mostly self-penned songs, which emphasize both his smoky baritone and the cooler than cool arrangements. Not to say that James has honed his style in a vacuum; his version of the Freestyle Fellowship's "Park Bench People" borrows in style from Gil Scott-Heron and his take on Rashaan Roland Kirk's "Spirits Up Above" has drawn comparisons to Andy Bey. 9/10.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Genius !!!!!, 12 Nov. 2008
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Effortless Warrior (Belfast, Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Dreamer (Audio CD)
What an accomplished album ! Put this on after a busy day and it's intant chillout - guaranteed. Love this CD so much. Just so cool and jazzy. Cannot recomend high enough - been on my CD player nonstop.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If Amazon would let me give this 10 stars I would **********, 31 Jan. 2008
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This review is from: The Dreamer (Audio CD)
I thought singers like this didn't exist anymore, I was wrong, José James is here to remind us why we love music so much!!! An Absolutly Stunning record that everyone need to hear Absolutly Beutiful if Jazz is your thing go get this right away along with Robert Glaspers In My Element another Stunning record This is REAL JAZZ not the sad excuse for JAZZ they are pumping out the radio at the moment Real Jazz the kind that would be too intelegent for the kids to get anyway so they would never listen it's such a shame they've been dumbed down so much by these no talent 50 cents and Soulja Boys or whatever Bullsh#t they are listening to at the moment it's left very little room for realartist like Jose to survive.
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