Keeping tabs on jazz/R&B singer José James since he left Minneapolis a decade ago has been a hard task, since he has been constantly on the move both geographically and musically. The South High grad and son of a Bee (his dad, Jose Sr., played in Willie & the Bees and Ipso Facto) has two big projects of note right now.
James will follow up his 2015 Billie Holiday tribute album with a decidedly more cutting edge, electronic-flavored album, “Love in a Time of Madness,” due out Feb. 24 on Blue Note Records. He will also be seen and heard on screen starting Feb. 10 in “Fifty Shades Darker,” the second film based on the popular soft-porn novel series. James sings a version of the Gerswhins' “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” in the movie and on its soundtrack, which also features John Legend, Sia, Niki Minaj and some up-and-comer named Taylor Swift.
“Love in a Time of Madness” marks another foray into edgier, modern R&B music from James, who left Minneapolis after high school for London and a stint at New York’s New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. His producers on the record include Torio (Miguel, Flo Rida) and Likeminds (Pharoahe Monch, Anthony Hamilton), and Mali Music and Oleta Adams make guest-vocal appearances. The new single, “Closer” (posted below) is a good hint at the D’Angelo/Miguel-like flavor.
“I could make jazz albums the rest of my life, but I want to reach people, man,” James said in a press release from Blue Note. “I like Jamie xx as much as I like Miles Davis, you know?”
He’s on tour through the spring but doesn’t have a Minnesota date on the books at the moment. Like any smart local native, he’s probably waiting till summer.