José James’ “Merry Christmas from José James”

Photo by Janette Beckman

Jazz artist José James (Rainbow Blonde Records)  released his first ever Christmas album Merry Christmas from José James on November 19th. The contemporary album celebrates the holiday season while honoring classic jazz and pop records of the 1950s. Today James releases the first single, “My Favorite Things,” a joyful rendition of the John Coltrane staple. A 13 date tour to support the album will launch at SF Jazz in San Francisco on November 27th and conclude at New York’s City Winery on December 14th. Stops also include Seattle, Portland, Santa Cruz, LA, Phoenix, Santa Fe, Minneapolis and Chicago.

Combining the classic jazz-crooner elegance of Frank Sinatra and Nat “King” Cole with the earthy sophistication of soul legends Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway, the ten track Merry Christmas from José James takes listeners on a world-class holiday experience from one of the greatest living voices in jazz. Listeners can find two original tracks, “Christmas in New York” and “Christmas Day” along with popular ballads such as “The Christmas Song,” “White Christmas,” “Let it Snow” and “This Christmas,” a modern twist on the Donny Hathaway holiday favorite. InJames’ version, he musically brings an aspect of R&B and hip-hop to the mostly Jazz collection and adds an element of family, with a guest vocal appearance by his 8 year old daughter. Another family member who was instrumental in the album was his grandmother Nancy who helped him discover much of the music of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and more, who each influenced the album’s musical mood board.

Songwriting for the project was spearheaded by José James and his partner, recently Grammy nominated Talia Billig. The album’s studio band features Grammy winning and nominated all stars Ben Williams (bass), Aaron Parks (piano), Jharis Yokley (drums) and Marcus Strickland (soprano saxophone). Produced by José James and Brian Bender and recorded by Ariel Shafir at Dreamland Studios, the album was mastered by Frank Arkwright at Abbey Road Studios. The session was recorded completely live on 2” tape and mixed in LCR (left-center-right) by Brian Bender at Motherbrain West.

“We worked really hard to recreate the exact recording conditions of the 1950s. Take the best jazz musicians in the world, put them in a fully vintage analogue world class studio, and assemble the creme de la creme of American Christmas classics,” said Jose on recording the album. “We recorded everything in one take, no overdubs, on one uncomfortably hot sunny day in July up near Woodstock. Every great Christmas album has been recorded in the summer, so this is also part of the tradition,” he continued.

Jazz Northwest is recorded and produced by host Jim Wilke and airs Sundays at 2 p.m. on KNKX Public Radio. Listeners may also subscribe to the podcast on Apple or Google

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