José James’ third album, 2013’s No Beginning No End announced a singular talent. The Minnesota-born musician trained at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, but–if that album title didn’t make it explicitly clear–“jazz” is a far-reaching term for James. He’s just as well-versed in hip-hop, soul, and rock as anything on the Blue Note label, to which he’s signed to. No Beginning No End combined all these flavors into a cool, smoky whole, with James acting as the sublime conductor.
Album number four While You Were Sleeping finds James leaning more towards the rock direction, but even with the distorted guitars, James still imparts his particular soulful stamp on things. He recently stopped by our Studio 1A with his band, and today’s song of the day comes from that live session. While his first two songs showed off his new sound, his third song took him all the way back to his roots. In a cover of Al Green’s “Simply Beautiful,” James taps straight into the Rev’s simplicity and delivers one hell of a performance.