W e’re officially in October and autumn is my favorite season. I mean, I love spring and the lush joy of spring doesn’t last that long. Autumn, however, goes for weeks. From the crisp chill to the change of leaves to the apple picking to the ways the sunset looks different to the amazing concerts that happen once we’re in a new school year.
And I saw two such spectacular shows within the last week and a half. If you aren’t familiar with these artists, please become familiar.
Van Hunt. José James. Remember these names.
Growing up in Cleveland, there were two memorable things about Dayton, Ohio: horses were bred there and apparently Rob and Chad Lowe are natives. More important than both of these is that Van Hunt was born and raised in southern Ohio.
A master of R&B, soul, electronica, stagecraft, and lyricism, Van Hunt self promotes like no agent could. In his many albums (LPs and EPs from 2004, available on iTunes and on his stellar website), you accompany him gladly and intensely on a journey of passion, grit, joy, anger, realization, and truth.
And a talent like his must not go unrecognized.
The new album, What Were You Hoping For?, dropped on 09/27 and is him at his most complex and questioning. Tracks like “Eyes Like Pearls” and “A Time Machine Is My New Girlfriend” are sung and played in voices heavy and intense. Yet they are rooted in the emotional searches for things we can’t provide ourselves. To paraphrase Mr. Hunt (and my favorite track on the album), “It’s A Mysterious Hustle.” And one we can manage for ourselves.
His tour continues today through 10/04 in Austin, Dallas, and Little Rock. If you’re in these cities, go to his show.
There is something remarkable about the mesh of jazz, soul, beatbox, and hip hop. José James blends all those in a series of songs that tell stories, prompt responses, and while he conjures memories of and respect for Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane, he is his own musician.
At his shows at Jazz Standard (full disclosure: I attended on 09/29 and 09/30) which run through 10/02, Mr. James not only did us the honor of performing his first completely composed piece before it’s released, “Trouble,” he introduced us to and celebrated his accompanying exceptional artists: Chris Smith (bass on 09/29), Ben Williams (bass on 09/30), Kris Bowers (piano and keyboard), Francisco Mela (drums), Takuya Kuroda (brass), and Taylor McFerrin (beatbox and vocals on 09/30).
This kind of partnership and leadership are rarely seen in vocalists. Mr. James managed the stage with panache and power, and you could hear every musician contributing yet not competing. When he performed “Equinox” which was a signature track for John Coltrane (who would have turned 85 on 09/23, of which Mr. James reminded us), there were tears streaming down my face both nights. This song was a new side of Trane, and while honoring him, Mr. James brings it to life in a way that identifies José James as an artist who is redefining vocals and spoken word.
Like Mr. Hunt’s, the albums released by Mr. James are a spectrum of so much. They’re on iTunes and Amazon.
Mr. James is appearing next in NYC at Le Poisson Rouge on 10/18 alongside Taylor McFerrin, and Robert Glasper Experiment. Join me there. I already have my ticket.
Welcome to October. Enjoy the shift to cooler temperatures and more rugged apparel. Discover artists and composers who remind you that well delivered reverb carries the music’s messages.