All my stuff is pretty seamless - like now, while I'm touring [Yesterday I Sang The Blues], today I'm going to go in the studio, I'm writing my next one. For me it's continual.

— Jose James

The most blissful Jose James quotes that will add value to your life

I actually started the whole project some years ago with a live debut at Ancienne Belgique in Brussels. The focus was mainly on my favorite period of Billie Holiday, which was the late-50s Verve recordings, with essentially a small version of the Count Basie band.

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There used to be a club in new york called Bradley's - I've never been there, it closed in the 80's - but I used to study with Junior Mance, and he would tell me about Bradley's. It was a very important place for a generation of jazz musicians in New York. It was really all about pianists there.

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When I sort of step in my jazz world, it's somewhere between instrumental jazz and vocal jazz.

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The level of musicianship in New York is the highest in the world.

It's tough to get into. You start gigging making 50 dollars a night, or playing for nothing to get to something. It's insane. It's like being a modern dancer, or something - the hardest thing to make money from.

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Chico Hamilton told me, "The first take is important in jazz because that's where the real emotion is." That's your true response to what's happening, and everything else after that, your brain is involved because you have something to reference.

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When I start working on a new album, I kind of stop listening to a lot of outside stuff just so I can kind of focus.

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I'm pretty much always planning two albums ahead.

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I go by the "Miles Davis school of production and band-leading", where you pick the best musicians you can, you provide them with a minimum of direction, and you just let the music happen. I've seen it work time and time again.

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Once I had the band, Jason [Moran] and John [Patitucci] and Eric [Harland] - it's very exciting to have that trio of just world-class guys - I already knew it was going to be fantastic. I didn't really tell them anything about it. They didn't know what they were going to play beforehand.

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I also tried to focus on songs that Billie Holiday wrote, songs that she had a hand in shaping, like "Strange Fruit"; songs that were written for her or songs that she wrote herself, like "Fine and Mellow" or "God Bless The Child."

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I've sort of realized there's a definite pattern to my output at this point: there's an album that everybody sort of loves, that's a real balance between the old and new, like The Dreamer or No Beginning No End, like a blend of jazz and hip-hop, or r&b and soul and hip-hop.

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I really like the complexity of jazz, the emotional depth;

I feel like there's no other music that's really as satisfying as jazz.

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About Jose James

Quotes 27 sayings
Profession Vocalist
Birthday January 20, 1978

I love that [ late-50s Verve recordings] - to me, that's the epitome of vocal jazz. It's my favorite style and era of it.

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If you look at the other singers of Billie Holiday's time, they were really trying to entertain. They were trying to make people feel good. They were singing fast - and she was singing the blues.

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I really pulled from that repertoire that Billie Holiday was singing, and the way she sang it. It's sort of this beautiful, not really midpoint, but a period of her career where she really still had her voice. She had that deep wisdom that we've come to associate her with. To me, that's her at the height of her powers.

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I'm listening to a lot of Drake, and a lot of Frank Sinatra just because it's his centennial also. I'm going to be doing some tributes to him this year. I love that Beck album. It was funny to me because my two favorite albums of the year were definitely the Beyonce album and the Beck album.

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For better or for worse, I think my approach to jazz is very traditional, in one sense, but is [also] very out of fashion today. It's about the musicians, and it's about that magic that happens in the moment.

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I don't get writer's block. I don't try to write anything; when something comes, I write it. I just practice and when I get an idea I write it down.

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For me, the difference between a musician reading an arrangement on a piece of paper, and them closing their eyes and listening to what's happening around them and responding to it, is huge.

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I feel like, in many ways, Billie Holiday's still very under-appreciated as an artist. People focus on her voice, and all of the very recognizable vocal things that she does, which are great. But I wanted to, with this project, start the conversation again about her as a radical feminist, as a civil rights activist - taking a stance. And also just [her] being a non-conformist.

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For me jazz is kind of an extension of hip-hop.

Kind of the sad thing is that a lot of jazz people just listen to jazz, and a lot of hip-hop people just listen to hip-hop, and there's not a lot of crossover, unfortunately.

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There's a more experimental album that follows that, which is like Black Magic and While You Were Sleeping. Then there's a return to jazz, For All We Know and Yesterday I Sang The Blues. It wasn't like a planned thing, I just kind of realized it when I made a list of my albums. Like, oh wow, this is exactly what I did before.

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Jason [Moran] and John [Patitucci] and Eric [Harland] knew it was a Billie Holiday tribute. I'm sure they assumed it was going to be like another singer date, where we just have a bunch of charts and they write them down and they got paid and kind of moved on. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's not what I intended.

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[Billie Holiday] was keeping it super real, and you can feel that to this day.

Everything that she sang, she believed in. So I had to pick songs that I felt the same about.

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I'm working with a producer, Scott Jacoby, who co-wrote "Trouble" off No Beginning No End. Without giving away too much, it's a definite pop/r&b vibe, pretty strong melodies, and definitely about songs.

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The other songs [of Billie Holiday] - "Body and Soul" is like the standard - I also wanted some songs that I knew I would sound good on, as a producer. It's been the same nine songs since I debuted it back in 2012.

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