Blue Note Presents…

SPACE Evanston

Shadows long upon my face
Shadows long upon my face
She’s gone
On the last train
Never thought that she would go
Never thought that she would go
Now I’m on my own

Lyrics from the title track of his most personal album to date, incomparable jazz musician Jose James takes his fans through his journey in music on his fourth upcoming album – While You Were Sleeping.

Just outside of Chicago in Evanston, we were given an intimate preview of the album. Candlelight provided just enough of a glow for the sold-out crowd to enter SPACE. Taking the stage first was Jose’s accomplished band that included 2011 Thelonius Monk International Jazz Piano competition winner, Kris Bowers, who warmed up the sold-out crowd with samples from his debut album Heroes + Misfits. Jose made his way to the stage and jumped right into new music with Angel, U R the 1, and While You Were Sleeping.

Jose says “this album is a synthesis of everything I love about music.” With its heavy guitar, up-tempo, and funk inspired rhythms, Jose says this album is fun, introspective, and an important piece of his musical journey. With songs like Bodhisattva (enlightened being), Dragon, and the first single Every Little Thing, Jose pulled inspiration from his experiences traveling the world. “The overwhelming spiritual presence [in Jakarta] moved me. This is my most personal album to date and it was actually co-produced by myself and each of my band members.”

From the soulful grooves of tunes like xx and Simply Beautiful to the rock and funk infused vibes of tracks like Anywhere U Go and Noble TruthsWhile You Were Sleeping is more than an album; it’s a musical experience.

I had a chance to chat with the Blue Note recording artist about the new album and his experiences on the road before he took the stage.

CLS: How did the title of the album come about?
JJ: It’s the title of one of my favorite songs on the new album.

CLS: I notice a lot of heavy guitar and rock sounds on the new album. What inspired the sound?
JJ: I worked a lot with guitarist Brad Allen Williams on this project. I wanted to do an album that was more up-tempo and fun; something you can dance to. I went back to a lot of the sounds I grew up listening to like Nirvana, the Beastie Boys, and Madlib.

CLS: Let’s talk about track 5 – Bodhisattva. What was the inspiration behind that?
JJ: Bodhisattva means enlightened being. It’s what a studying Buddhist is before becoming a Buddha. When I was touring and over in Jakarta, I had the honor of witnessing the incredible spiritual presence there. I was moved to write about unity and compassion. And that’s what Bodhisattva is.

CLS: Of all of your albums, which is your favorite?
JJ: The Dreamer. It was my first big project. The first time I was exposed to the entire process of writing and album, recording it, and then giving it to the public.

CLS: What is the hardest part about creating an album?
JJ: Realizing that your dream won’t come true the way that you think it will. You have the label, the band, critics, collaborators, fans, and so many people you have to create FOR that it becomes almost impossible to produce your dream exactly the way you dreamt it. It gets hard at times.

CLS: How do you feel about younger musicians not studying or even enjoying jazz?
JJ: There is no meaning behind it. I don’t listen to contemporary jazz either. It doesn’t have the same meaning and passion connected it to as if you were listening to Billie, or Miles. But there are some musicians that are helping to bring jazz into newer music, like Robert Glasper, and I appreciate that.

CLS: What do you do during your downtime in other cities?
JJ: I go to museums, record stores, and I eat. That is one of the great things about international travel, being able to see and taste the culture of different places around the world.

CLS: Is there a particular city that you feel most received in?
JJ: Oakland. I mean New York, L.A. and Chicago all show love, but the Oakland crowd is always Live.

CLS: What do you hope your fans will get when they listen to the new album?
JJ: I hope they get how special this journey is. There is so much more to come, but this is my most personal project by far. I hope it touches them and inspires them in some way.

Take me to the sun
I’m not anyone
I won’t even care
I’m not anywhere
Take me to the moon
Never let me go
Let me float away
Leave me all alone
(Lyrics from Anywhere U Go)

While You Were Sleeping is a collective of poetic storytelling, incredible live instrumentation, and an intense fusion of jazz, rock, funk, and soul. Pickup the album June 10 and download the single on iTunes now.

Check out exclusive video of Jose James’ Live performance below.

Camille LaRay Smith
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