José James

José James (10:00 PM)

Gizmo (9:00 PM)

Sat, September 20, 2014

8:00 pm

This event is all ages

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José James - (Set time: 10:00 PM)
José James
Singer-songwriter José James has always been on the quest for new musical horizons; constantly evolving and blurring the lines between genres in the process. Now on the heels of his critically acclaimed Blue Note Records debut No Beginning No End, José returns with his dynamic and daring fifth album While You Were Sleeping. While keeping his trademark soulful baritone at the forefront, José adeptly weaves elements of indie rock, folk, funk, blues, hip hop and R&B into an experience journeying from desire to introspection and spiritual epiphany. “As an artist, I’m going to keep evolving,” he says resolutely. “I think my fans have now come to expect this from me. They want to know what I’m going to do next.”

“I really wanted to make a wide open album that people could come into from a lot of different perspectives,” he continues. “This album is a synthesis of everything I love about music, from contemporary artists like Frank Ocean, James Blake, and Junip to groundbreaking artists I grew up with like Nirvana, Radiohead, and Madlib. It’s also a love letter to many late nights spent in East London clubs like Plastic People and Cargo, watching new movements unfold in electronic music. I want people to feel the joy of discovery that I experience night after night onstage, reaching for something new.”

Along with producer Brian Bender and his tight-knit band – Kris Bowers (keys), Solomon Dorsey (bass), and Richard Spaven (drums) – José set out to create an album that captured the spirit of his newfound creative space. In the studio the band members recalibrated their roles, serving as co-producers for his latest forays in sound. “They really went in on the creative ideas, taking it to a new place. I definitely had the artistic vision. It’s still a José James album. But for the first time, I let the band have more of a voice.” José’s decision to have all hands on deck resulted in a more cohesive band unit. “It got me a lot closer to them as well. It’s really about us sharing our musical worlds. The band is super tight now. I think it’s one of the most special bands that I’ve ever had.”

José composed the majority of the album while on the road in support of No Beginning No End. During his tour he decided to shift his method of composition to acoustic guitar. “I really loved the way it meshed with my voice,” he says. “It made me realize that I hadn’t been tapping into other influences that I had within me.”

José also recruited a new band member in Memphis guitarist Brad Allen Williams to shore up the ideas he’d been mulling for the new album. Williams brought a rock feel while maintaining his home city’s signature soul and blues. “He’s amazing. He’s a perfect fit for this new direction. There’s definitely a lot more rock elements on this record because of Brad, but the soul connection is also important to me. I never want to go too far away from soul.”

The resulting album beautifully showcases James’ knack for weaving strands of various genres into a singular musical experience. “Angel,” the album’s opening track, opens with a wailing guitar riff reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix before launching into a funky ode to the tug of war between carnal desire and the quest for love. “I think it’s fascinating to have that kind of spiritual/sexual tension. I think we need both. You just have to find the balance between the two.”

José offers up the converse in “Bodhisattva.” “It’s a Buddhist term that means enlightened being,” he explains. Written during a stop in Jakarta while on tour, the song was James’ first song written outside of No Beginning No End. “I was staying in a hotel modeled after the famous Borobudur Temple where I started to feel a beautiful spiritual presence. One day I was walking through the gardens surrounded by statues of Bodhisattvas and heard a Muslim call to prayer. I got inspired to write a song about unity and compassion that would be as deeply spiritual as my time in Jakarta.”

The lead single “EveryLittleThing” flaunts a rock vibe spiked with an electronica edge. “This was the only one that came together so quickly,” beams José. “We finished it in half an hour. The lyrics come from somewhere deep and personal. It’s just about coming from a rough beginning, which I definitely have come from. Finding strength through adversity. Being a self-made man.”

The album’s title track “While You Were Sleeping”ebbs and flows beautifully, ruminating on the end of a love affair. The song culminates in crashing waves of self-reflection and affirmation. “I feel like that’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” he says. “It’s the most mature song I’ve ever written. That’s a song – in both writing and production – that I’ll stand by as my best to date. It’s about break ups and that feeling of being on the edge, when you realize that your life is about to change completely. It’s about letting go and finding inner strength as well.”

“Anywhere U Go” revs up the rock engine once again while “Dragon” finds José melding his distinctive sound with singer-songwriter Becca Stevens. A former New School classmate, Stevens wrote the song as the sessions for While You Were Sleeping were coming to a close. “She wrote it and we were all blown away,” says José. “The demo that she sent was her playing on a Wurlitzer. We liked it so much we decided to use it on the album version.”

Reflecting his desire not to stray too far from his soul influences, the album closes with a slow-burning cover of the 1972 Al Green classic “Simply Beautiful.” Featuring a smoldering trumpet solo by Blue Note label mate Takuya Kuroda, José was initially wary of including the cover. “I’m not normally a fan of covering great soul legends,” he says. “But I felt like we were doing something musically valid with it, so we decided to record it. That was the only one we did together in one take. And you can feel it.”

* *

Since the beginning, the Minneapolis native has always drawn from disparate musical influences. “Growing up, it seemed like there was a new groundbreaking album coming out every month. It was such an exciting time to be a fan of music. I can remember waiting for 10,000 Maniacs or Ice Cube to come out with a new album. That really stoked my creativity.”

José set his sights on New York City – the ultimate metropolitan utopia where iron sharpens iron in various disciplines – and entered the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City. Conspiring with classmates and flourishing under the tutelage of jazz luminaries, he found himself in a rich fabric of diverse musical contemporaries. He remembers, “I just started putting all this stuff together. For me, it was never about whether it was jazz or hip-hop. It was all about creative people who just had different sounds.”

An EP of José’s first recordings ended up in the hands of influential BBC Radio disc jockey Gilles Peterson. Thoroughly impressed, Peterson enlisted José to join the roster of his label Brownswood Recordings and released his 2008 debut The Dreamer – a captivating mixture of jazz tradition and modern flair – and 2010’s forward-thinking opus Blackmagic – a bold foray beyond tradition, synthesizing his jazz sensibilities with an ardent hip-hop moxie at the hands of beatsmiths like the esteemed Flying Lotus. Blackmagic successfully broadened his reach beyond jazz, garnering high praise from respected media outlets traditionally reserved for hip-hop and soul such as Okayplayer and Wax Poetics.

After extensive touring and experimentation with new ideas, James joined the Blue Note roster in 2013 when he released his breakout album No Beginning No End to wide acclaim. With its irrepressible lead single “Trouble,” the album release found José making national TV appearances on Conan, Late Show With David Letterman, and Tonight Show With Jay Leno.

The New York Times praised his “cool and confident” album, adding that it “sounds like the result of the black-pop continuum, jazz and soul and hip-hop and R&B, slow-cooked for more than 50 years.” NPR Music raved that “James makes utterly contemporary music,” noting that he “skirts categories with ease, fitting in with current R&B innovators like Frank Ocean or Miguel, yet maintaining a strong awareness of a lineage that stretches from Ray Charles to Marvin Gaye to Lou Rawls to Maxwell.”

In their album review Pitchfork noted that “While he’s always been one to try stuff out, on No Beginning No End he finds a way to make an eclectic approach feel unified and whole. With previous releases, he’s earned his heroic acclaim in the tough, tried-and-trusted lanes of contemporary jazz. With No Beginning No End, he’s built his own road out.”

If anything can be said about José James, aside from marveling at his impressive talent and incomparable voice, it’s that he is indeed a fearless artist. While You Were Sleeping is another momentous milestone along his creative path. “I think it’s very rewarding to take chances. It’s really important to take the journey.”
Gizmo - (Set time: 9:00 PM)
Most musicians wait a lifetime to share stages with their musical heroes. Hoping to accomplish such a feat while still racking up college credits would be considered nothing more than a pipe dream. But having performed with such esteemed artists as Meshell Ndegeocello, Talib Kweli, and Victor Wooten as well as serving as music director for such acclaimed artists as Bilal and Lalah Hathaway, it's safe to say that 21-year-old bassist Kenneth "Gizmo" Rodgers has been living that dream for quite some time now. With a wealth of experience that belies his years touting a vast array of musical influences spanning the realms of jazz, pop, funk, rock, Latin, and hip-hop, Gizmo is set to unveil his debut sonic masterpiece Red Balloon. Produced by bassist Derrick Hodge (Robert Glasper Experiment, Kanye West, Common) with glints of spoken word and soul, Red Balloon is a wondrous 13-track odyssey through the multi-faceted human experience.

"When you see a little kid let a balloon go at a carnival, everybody kind of looks up at it as it floats away," explains Gizmo of the project's captivating central theme. "The balloon seems to float around, trying to find its way. I feel like that's how most people are. We're all trying to figure out who we are, what we want to do, and what we stand for. All striving to be special, loved, or valued in some kind of way. And everybody's kind of watching you as you float around this life. But if the pressure gets too high, it pops at some point." A labor of love recorded over the course of three years in Boston between gigs and classes at Berklee College of Music, the deeply personal album features an impressive cast of thousands including Casey Benjamin of the Robert Glasper Experiment, accomplished pianist/ Berklee professor George Russell, Jr, Downbeat magazine Rising Star drummer Jamire Williams and more.

Reared in Philadelphia in a household brimming with the influences of his Puerto Rican and African-American heritage, Gizmo was introduced to the sounds of salsa and soul at an early age. Though his spectacular bass facility evokes the promise and the prowess of legends such as Jaco Pastorious and Stanley Clarke, the instrument was actually the Philadelphia native's second choice. "When I was in elementary, I wanted to play drums," says Gizmo. "But they said I had big hands, so I started playing bass. I just went from there." Yet it wasn't until being accepted into the highly competitive statewide Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Arts program at the age of 16 that Gizmo began to seriously contemplate music as a fulfilling career. Instructed by professors from Berklee and Julliard at the 5-week program, Gizmo was inspired to hone his talent and stretch out in the fertile musical environment. "I had five weeks where I practiced, played, and did music everyday. I was studying seriously. Compared to my peers, I always felt like I was behind because I started late. So I worked extra hard to get where I needed to be. From that point, all I did was play in jazz groups and hip-hop cover groups in Philly."

While at the program, Gizmo was instructed by pianists Russell and George Burton (Ornette Coleman, Christian McBride, and Wayne Shorter). Burton recommended that the young jazz hopeful get in touch with his close friend Hodge for further tutorship. The two hit it off immediately. "I went over to Derrick's house for a lesson and was there for like three hours. We just had a really good connection. He's been like a big brother to me since that point." While his iPod playlist consisted of the illustrious catalog of jazz giants such as Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane, he was also introduced to the music of recording artist and fellow bassist Meshell Ndegeocello during this formative period. "That blew my mind. Her music helped me to start paying attention to lyrics. On a deeper level, her music helped me to be a more open human being. It helped to break down the stigmas that I had in my mind in terms of what type of music you're supposed to play if you're black."

After a semester spent in the jazz program at the University of Miami, Gizmo set sail for the more expansive halls of higher learning at the Berklee College of Music. During his first semester at Berklee, Gizmo developed a rapport with Ndegeocello who came to the school for a musician's clinic. The two solidified a friendship while performing at a subsequent concert in Los Angeles with the Miguel Atwood-Ferguson Ensemble. By his second semester, Gizmo had assumed the role of music director of Berklee's Neo Soul Ensemble, began gigging across the globe as a music director, and became an in-demand musician at venues such as the world famous Blue Note. During his travels, he performed and developed bonds with such accomplished musicians as Benjamin, Marcus Strickland, Dana Hawkins, and Marc De Clive-Lowe. In addition, Gizmo managed to secure endorsements from an impressive list of bass equipment and accessories companies such as Aguilar Amplifications, Mono Case, Dean Markely Strings, and Levy Leathers.

By the end of his first year at Berklee, Gizmo had broadened both his resume and his musical horizons exponentially. "Everything started picking up," he says. "It became more than just about playing bass at that point. It was about learning how to write parts for horns, strings, and harmonies for background vocals." As music director for the Neo Soul Ensemble, he'd successfully music directed shows by Bilal and Lalah Hathaway. Being surrounded by such an awe-inspiring group of successful artists and musicians, Gizmo was inspired to begin putting his experience and education to use by sketching out sonic ideas of his own. Three years and countless ideas later, Red Balloon is the grand result. "When I first started, it wasn't about me making a record. I was just recording stuff. I was just trying to write music for myself." Beginning his journey with the funky spoken word-influenced "Sleepblah," Gizmo eventually amassed an impressive collection of tunes culled from demos recorded in Puerto Rico, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. Red Balloon also includes a little help from Berklee friends such as Nick Hakim, Darien Jovan, Derrick Cobbs, and BET's 106 & Park Wild Out Wednesdays featured artist Gwen Bunn.

The album's expansive and mesmerizing title track will serve as the lead single. "That was one of the last songs I ended up recording," reveals Gizmo. "It's about shedding the anxieties and judgements we have about each other. It's about overcoming obstacles and accepting that seasons change. And above all that, continuing to try and fly." Hip-hop artist/ Berklee professor Brian "Raydar" Ellis drops rapid-fire verses on the funky head nod excursion "Invalid." Singer-songwriter Nick Hakim is featured on the album's brilliant second single "Lift Me Up." Penned by Hakim and co-produced by Gizmo, "Lift Me Up" exemplifies Gizmo's ability to condense his disparate influences into a soulful marvel of a gem. "The song is reflective of a place where most of us have been, in terms of questioning what decision to make and where we're going to end up," he explains.
In addition to his own bass prowess, Red Balloon finds Gizmo contributing percussion, keyboards, and stepping behind the microphone for the first time as a singer. "My concept at first was to write these songs and have other people sing them," he admits. "But because of Meshell and Derrick saying, 'Nobody's going to have the same amount of emotional connection to the song as you will,' I just let myself go and recorded it." Following the advice of his mentors, Gizmo is featured singing lead vocals and reciting spoken word on cuts such as "Dancing," "Insane," and his enthralling rendition of the 2008 Kings Of Leon hit song "Use Somebody." Red Balloon will be released in association with progressive jazz boutique brand Revive Music. At the helm of the album's artwork is Roland Nichol, graphic designer of jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding's 2011 Grammy-winning album Chamber Music Society.

Buttressed by the contributions of a vibrant collective of mentors, colleagues, and classmates, Red Balloon stands firmly as a dynamic undertaking by a promising young artist. Coalesced by Gizmo's own unique talent, it is a brazen statement from a new cadre of artists seeking to meld their formal jazz training with new sounds and modalities. It's clear that Gizmo and Red Balloon are representative of this group of artists in a chapter of change with an allegiance to the groove. "I definitely see it as a movement," says Gizmo. "It all stems from the idea of going with the moment. I've been struggling what to call my music, and I really don't know what to say. To me, in my heart, I feel like it's jazz - although we're not swinging. Some people might say it's alternative because I have some pop and some dubstep influences on there as well. But I feel like I'm just trying to make honest music, not doing something just because it's in style. I just let me influences fly free. It wasn't a conscious thought; it's just naturally what's inside me. There's just so much music in the world. But underneath all that, there's a solid groove."
Venue Information:
9081 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90069

All lineups and times subject to change