Fridays Live: José James Sings Erykah Badu
Fridays Live • SFJAZZ At Home

José James Sings the Music of Erykah Badu

originally filmed on JUNE 17, 2023

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José James

Tonight on Fridays Live, SFJAZZ presents a versatile and soulful vocalist and songwriter, José James. This broadcast highlights James’ Festival show, where he will pay tribute to one of his musical heroes, Erykah Badu, the queen of neo-soul. He performs songs from his album Lean On Me, which features his interpretations of Badu’s iconic hits and deep cuts, such as “On & On”, “Next Lifetime” and “Bag Lady”.

A romantic baritone with a deep-funk band, stretching out songs, evoking both the ’70s of Roberta Flack and Gil Scott-Heron and the ’90s and oughts of J Dilla.
The New York Times

The Summer heats up with the return of singer José James, the crown prince of new-jack jazz, performing the songs of modern soul queen Erykah Badu as captured on his new album, On & On: José James Sings Eryka Badu. An R&B-steeped singer from Minneapolis who’s as effective evoking Billie Holiday as Bill Withers, James honors Badu with his silk-smooth approach that melds an R&B feeling with a jazz crooner’s depth, in fresh arrangements of her classics “Green Eyes,” “Bag Lady,” and “Didn’t Cha Know.”

“It’s simple,” James explains. “Jazz singing has always been about interpreting the highest level of standards of your time. And for my generation Erykah Badu has been one of the most innovative and incisive songwriters. Her work has proven to be groundbreaking in a social, musical, and artistic sense.”

Working in close collaboration with master bassist, producer and arranger Ben Williams and surrounded by an array of brilliant players including in-demand keyboard phenom Big Yuki and drummer Jharis Yokley along with a rising young Afro-Ukrainian saxophonist Diana Dzhabbar, On & On is thoroughly a jazz album. Conceived in the spirit of Herbie Hancock’s River: The Joni Letters, James artfully draws upon his experiences with modern masters McCoy Tyner, Robert Glasper and Flying Lotus to create a new sonic landscape through an improvisatory lens, while celebrating one of the great artists of our time.

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