By Ayana Contreras | Published April 2020
If José James’ No Beginning No End 2 were a color, it’d be mauve. The color, though lovely, is strangely unaffecting. It’s not grey, tan, purple or pink. It’s a gentle, muted blend.
These days, genres are imploding, and James is excited at not being tagged a jazz singer. He notes that “it was such a struggle for my generation, and others before, to kick these doors down of this genre and that.”
Songs like “Take Me Home” and a notable cover of “Just The Way You Are” settle into a comfortable, perhaps even plush space on the vocalist’s first album for his newly minted Rainbow Blonde imprint. This is not James at his most adventurous, the album marking a dramatic turn from the edgy r&b of Love In A Time of Madness, his last collection of originals. The first installment of No Beginning No End in 2013 bore more than a passing resemblance to D’Angelo’s classic Voodoo, perhaps because of bassist Pino Palladino contributing to each project. But on No Beginning No End 2, James is the Les McCann of our times: a hip, approachable, jazz-tinged performer delivering music to pick up the kids to. Music to clean the apartment to.
Maybe that’s the whole idea, as the title of the album comes from a Buddhist text by Jakusho Kwong that explains how to celebrate the mundane activities in our daily lives. James’ “You Know What It Do” is set to a well-worn, swinging 1960s groove, complete with a hint of Hammond B-3. This is a gentle music with the smooth edges of a favorite book. Maybe in these divisive times, we can use a little gentleness.
No Beginning No End 2: I Need Your Love; You Know What It Do; Feels So Good; Turn Me Up; Just The Way You Are; Baby Don’t Cry; Nobody Knows My Name; Take Me Home; I Found A Love; Saint James; Miss Me When I’m Gone; Oracle. (51:01)
Personnel: José James, Ledisi (1), Cecily (3), Aloe Blacc (4), J. Hoard (6), Laura Mvula (7), Lizz Wright (8), Taali (9), Hindi Zahra (12), vocals; Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah (1), Erik Truffaz (12), trumpet; Brian Bender (3), Alan Hampton (11), Marcus Machado, guitar; Kris Bowers (7, 8), Brett Williams, Takeshi Ohbayashi, keyboard; Ben Williams, bass; Justin Brown, Jamire Williams, drums; Alberto Lopez, percussion.