North Minneapolis native José James, now a global star, returns for a hometown show


One of North Minneapolis’s own returns: R&B star José James headlines an upcoming Cedar Cultural Center bill. James upholds a Twin Cities pop legacy that lists, of course, Prince, Mint Condition, and Sounds of Blackness. He adds, let it not be questioned, a distinct presence.

He hits town this Tuesday, gearing up on a just-launched tour, promoting No Beginning No End (Blue Note Records), recently released to critics’ raves coast-to-coast. To say the guy has made a serious splash considerably understates the case. He threatens to take the industry by storm. After all, how often does one’s pedigree include being among the select pop performers to make the roster at Blue Note, a label long known as the last word for jazz purists? His inclusion is fitting. In fact, there’s a hint of late legend Gil Scott-Heron in James’s caustic bent on vocals. When Scott-Heron came along, Blue Note Records hadn’t opened its doors. He was lucky to find the Flying Dutchman label. Fortunately, progress willed out and José James has a firmly established place in the market.

Not particularly bent out of shape over his Blue Note Records debut, James matter-of-factly states, “I don’t want to be confined to any particular style. I decided I didn’t want to be considered a jazz singer anymore and that was really freeing. Once I realized that jazz singing is just something that I do and it’s just a label, it freed me as an artist to just write without any boundaries.” Confidence well-deserved, thy alias is José James.

Listen to “Trouble.” Some of the smoothest soul since Al Green’s heyday, rhythm section air tight, vocals slick as silk with just enough edge. Fact is, James continually is compared to the greats: Smokey Robinson, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye. Who was the last artist you saw draw such accolades? James quite sensibly acknowledges, “I think we really underestimate what emotional trailblazers they were. They opened up channels of male vulnerability and sensitivity within black music.”

Black, white, brown, or blue with polka dot stripes. You’ll do yourself a disservice to not see, hear, and completely experience what this emerging artist has to offer in terms of the future of listening to sounds that give you plenty money’s worth along the lines of innovation.

Suffice to say, José James’s area release show for No Beginning No End is not to be missed.

Coverage of issues and events affecting Central Corridor communities is funded in part by a grant from the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.