Live Shots: José James at New Parish


A couple of phrases used (and possibly made up) to describe José James’s show Friday night: swoontastic and baby-making-music. The rising neo-crooner gigged in San Jose and SF the preceding two evenings, but it's hard to beat the intimacy of Oakland's the New Parish, which has a certain bohemian vibe.

Whereas James's previous shows in the Bay Area were more traditional jazz with restrained piano accompaniment, on this tour he was backed up with a full band capable of illustrating his range. It made for a super talented quintet including keyboardist Kris Bowers (who appeared on Kanye/Jay Z's Watch the Throne album), bassist Solomon Dorsey, trumpet player Takuya Kuroda (a familiar collaborator of James’s), and standout drummer Nate Smith.

Known for pulling hip-hop and electronic sounds into the vocal jazz tradition, James is as much influenced by John Coltrane as he is in line with the legend's nephew, Flying Lotus (who did production on 2010's Black Magic) and gave a respective shout-out to each.

Most impressively, the group collectively had a relaxed, pretension-free quality, with James on point, cuing Kuroda to take a solo or setting a mic stand in front of the seemingly reserved Dorsey, wordlessly indicating that it was his turn to sing. Previewing a significant amount of material from the upcoming album Trouble, James closed the show with an encore of the title track. Reiterating that it was his first time in Oakland, it was clear from the smile on his face (and the crowd's) that it probably wouldn't be the last.