In 2015 another underrated album that seemed to not get enough attention, was Blue Note artist: José James’s Yesterday I Had The Blues (The Music of Billie Holiday). On this record, Mr. James presents his most intimate and heart-wrenching sound yet. And José James is still recording covers by other artists; for his next album in 2018 will contain songs from the music catalog of Bill Withers. Yesterday I Had The Blues features bassist John Patitucci, drummer Eric Harland, and pianist Jason Moran. Also, this album came out in tribute to Billie Holiday, who would have turned 100 in 2015. A few of the highlights off this record come from the tunes “God Bless The Child,” “Strange Fruit,” “Good Morning Heartache,” and “What A Little Moonlight Can Do.” The jazz trio backing James are all phenomenal virtuoso musicians who deliver fresh chord changes and remarkable accompaniment to the beautiful vocals by José James on this album.
José James‘s voice on this record sounds more somber and reflective. Both the first and last songs on this tribute album are musical bookends of tremendous emotion and dramatic declarations of lament during troubling times. It is an artistic perspective on current political issues, racial issues, and authoritative brutality which occurred during Billie Holiday’s era and what most certainly still exists today.
If one wants to listen to brilliant harmonic and melodic jazz at work, by the fire, on the couch, reading a book, or relaxing in a quiet atmosphere; then this album is an ideal one to indulge in. Lastly, some artists that are similar to José James are Robert Glasper, Norah Jones, Charlie Hunter, and Bilal.
I would give this album an 8 1/2 out of 10 for its new current takes on Ms. Holiday’s tunes. This album keeps jazz fresh and as hip as ever. I am excited to hear José James’s next record in 2018!
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