José James – Prospect Park – June 12, 2015
Our attendance at this concert was partly nudged along by Jake. He knows he has to be careful about what he touts to me, and exercises appropriate restraint (especially if I gotta go Brooklyn!); this one worked out well, considering. The thing to consider is that the headliner was Esperanza Spalding. It goes without saying that it will be too dark to sketch any second acts at the PP Bandshell. She’s waaaaay into her concept albums at this point in her career. And that set was, well if you can’t say something nice, retreat to “I don’t get it!”, totally the case here. And the bass was too loud (I know it’s your instrument, honey, but you need someone to advocate for the balance!). I had primo seat for sketching while cooler heads were back there laying on blanket on the grass. So by the middle of her set, when I (and the others) wanted to leave, I physically couldn’t get to them, as the crowd had swelled to clog up all outward access (note to safety managers at the bandshell – aisles must stay clear!) Sorry for all the rant, and that doesn’t even include the driving logistics nightmare tales (yes, plural!). James, though, was a revelation. I’ll be more than a bit skeptical about someone who got to jazz via hip-hop (and more so if he thinks, as stated in an interview that he didn’t necessarily want to be “labeled” as jazz because people would think ….. wait for it…… Michael Bublé!) But he pulled it off, and even slung some guitar in the process. The band was all players, no scratchin’, etc., and the set included a far-ranging blend of styles, all delivered with suitable reverence. So that was nice. Even before I did my post-gig research, James had scored some Gambino cred points by having Nate Smith as the drummer; I’d caught him long ago as part of a Dave Holland combo, and remain impressed with his chops. Unfortunately, once again I cannot find the name of a player (the keyboard) for correct credit, oh well.