Jose James: BlackMagic

Brownswood Recordings

When was the last time a male jazz singer could confidently croon, bump fists with the best slam poets around, serenade the ladies out of their draws with such carnal cuts as "Touch" and "Lay You Down," and still maintain hip-hop cred with street-talking "Code?" Try never. That's why nu-jazz balladeer José James, on his Flying Lotus and Moodymann produced sophomore disc, BlackMagic, is something modern music hasn't experienced in a long time: an original. Yes, earlier eras are heard in James' assured Johnny Hartman baritone and Gil Scott-Heron phrasing, but rarely has a cucumber-cool conjurer so comfortably nestled into so many soundscapes. Whether it's urban R&B, piano jazz, neo-soul or ambient electronica, James mystically makes it all his own. 5 out of 5 stars.