Jose James // Yesterday I Had the Blues: The Music of Billie Holiday
Jose James pays a proper and powerful tribute to Billie Holiday with this nine-track album.
Yesterday I Had the Blues: The Music of Billie Holiday
"Billie would be proud." Singer Jose James pays that high compliment to his accompanying trio, but it could just as easily be applied to James and the album. With his unique voice and style – soft, delicate, quietly expressive – he proves perfectly suited to tribute Holiday. He gives super-sensitive readings – without wallowing – to several Holiday signature songs. Of those, "Lover Man" stands out vocally and gets a big boost from the dynamic pianist Jason Moran, who is marvelous throughout. As soulful balladeer, James interprets several standards, the highlight being an exquisite "Tenderly." Not overlooking the swinging side of Billie, James romps at a racehorse pace through "What a Little Moonlight Can Do," turning loose Moran, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Eric Harland. "Strange Fruit," the powerful song about lynching of blacks in the South, appropriately ends the nine-song CD with passion (rage?) from James and a mournful "chain gang" chant hummed by the band. – Bob Protzman