Christmas is still a couple of months away, but José James decided to give his fans some early gifts. The crooner not only blessed us with his cover of Erykah Badu's "The Healer," but that single came with the news that his Badu jazz tribute album has an official release date at the top of 2023 and more details about the project. As if that wasn't enough, the artist premiered the album during a trio of live concerts, one of which was at the Kennedy Center for a free performance at Millennium Stage.
José James' On & On will be released on Friday, January 20, 2023. That day is his 45th birthday, and, here again, he'll be gifting us with new music and giving Erykah Badu her well-deserved flowers. The project will feature musicians Ebban Dorsey and Diana Dzhabbar who will join José on his jazz interpretations of tracks from Badu's songbook.
"The Healer" will be accompanied by six other songs that traverse Erykah's 25-year-long career. Her classic debut Baduizm will be represented by the collection's title cut "On & On," while three songs from her legendary sophomore album Mama's Gun – "Didn't Cha Know," "Green Eyes" and "Bag Lady" – are included. James will complete the project with "Gone Baby, Don't Be Long" and "Out My Mind, Just In Time," two tracks taken from New Amerykah Part Two: Return Of The Ankh.
José brought On & On to life last week with three world-premiere performances of the full album in Natick, Massachusetts; Brooklyn for BRIC JazzFest and Washington, D.C. where the brief series culminated in a concert at KenCen's Millennium Stage. That final show was free to attend (which made for a packed house, of course), and it was also broadcast live around the world on the Kennedy Center's website.
James was joined by Ebban Dorsey on alto sax, Jharis Yokley on drums, Ben Williams on bass and Julius Rodriguez on piano. After an instrumental intro set the tone, José and the band grooved right into "On & On." Stopping only briefly to introduce the players and speak about the album, he transitioned smoothly into the rest of the material. José's vocal depth and the stellar musicianship on display made for an engrossing and entertaining live set.
The performance ended with "Bag Lady," and José James worked in a bit of "Window Seat," which was the cherry on top of a chef's kiss. We don't know whether the album version will feature that killer interpolation, but we have our fingers crossed. We also have it high on our prayer list that José James announces a tour in support of On & On in the new year. As generous as he's been, though, we suspect it's only a matter of time.
Watch José James dive into Erykah Badu's catalog live from the Kennedy Center below. On & On is currently available for pre-order on Bandcamp, and tickets for his upcoming Christmas shows in November and December are on sale on his website.
José James On & On tracklist:
1. On & On feat. Diana Dzhabbar & Ebban Dorsey
2. Didn't Cha Know feat. Ebban Dorsey
3. Green Eyes feat. BIGYUKI & Diana Dzhabbar
4. The Healer feat. Ebban Dorsey
5. Gone Baby, Don't Be Long feat. Ebban Dorsey
6. Out My Mind, Just In Time
7. Bag Lady feat. Diana Dzhabbar