Monday 2 June 2014

My Funky (In)Disposition Make Believe MashUP Series [No.03]

Although this is the third one in this mish-mash series, this is the first one where I'm almost surprised that a collaboration between the two factions hasn't already happened.  Both, Soulive and Jose James, built their names via their contemporary, forward-thinking and unmistakable take on jazz... Well, let's save the flattery for the full-on analysis and get stuck right in...

Being able to see the Soulive dynasty flourish as well as it has over the years has been inspiring.  The trio (Alan Evans, Neal Evans and Eric Krasno) brought their distinctly unique take on jazz and have been able to deliver albums of immeasurable class through legendary labels including Blue Note, the rejuvenated Stax label, and finally on their own independent label, Royal Family Records.  Their initial releases showcased their inimitable jazz chops, encapsulated beautifully through the album, 'Doin Somethin', but subsequent releases have seen Soulive's sound shift ever-so-subtly towards a more soul-funk aesthetic, see 'Up Here'.  Most excitingly, from a fan perspective, the band never releases the same album twice: aside from the aforementioned genre shift, Soulive have released albums recruiting saxophonists Sam Kininger and Karl Denson, separately, along with their soul album with vocalist Toussaint.

Royal Family Records has not only been established to house their most recent releases, but also their solo ventures, their side-project full funk band, Lettuce, but also releases by Break Science.  Certainly all adds up to one helluva resume.

I probably don't talk enough about Jose James on this site - just kidding, it feels like every alternate post I make gets the 'Jose James' tag.  Can you blame me though?!  Since his debut album in 2008 ('The Dreamer'), his unrivaled talent and work ethic has seen him soar from the independent darling discovered by Gilles Peterson, to a leading recording artist signed to Blue Note Records.  On the eve of releasing his fifth studio album, James has also made a reputable name of defying the restraints of a single genre - 'The Dreamer', a beautiful ode to a classic era of jazz music, 'Black Magic', embracing electronic and hip-hop production by Flying Lotus and Moody Man, and 'No Beginning No End', potentially the breakthrough record of his career, molding styles of neo-soul.

Could it happen?

Maybe.  Probably won't, but... maybe.  The thought of the results are so exciting though.  As I mentioned in the intro - both factions have an appreciation and understanding of classic jazz but are bold enough as artists in their own right to not only forge ahead using their personality and style in jazz to create a lane all of their own, but are that damn good, that they can push beyond these boundaries and venture effortlessly into new realms.

As touched on before, neither Jose James or Soulive are strangers to collaboration - Jose James working with bands as diverse as Soil & "Pimp" Sessions, J.A.M., Jazzanova and Basement Jaxx, while Soulive have recruited vocalists including Amel Larrieux, Nigel Hall, Reggie Watts and Chaka Khan.

A Whole album's worth of collaboration is the key here though - we'd undoubtedly have an incredible 'song' at the end, but a full album that gives the foursome room to experiment and feed off each others' strengths is where the magic would really lie.  Most exciting would be hearing Jose James with a full funky soul backdrop - let him get his James Brown on a little bit!

...And speaking of which, let's get straight to our exhibits for this feature: Exhibit A, features Nigel Hall as the vocalist for Soulive for one of their many, many collaborations 'Too Much'...

And maintaining that level of beautifully crazy, effervescent energy, here's Jose James performing with Japanese jazz trio, J.A.M. for 'Jazzy Joint'...

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