You may find this José James disc filed in the jazz section by virtue of the small-combo acoustic accompaniment, but The Dreamer is straight-up soul music of the sort you rarely hear on contemporary R&B recordings. Think of the warm sensuality of iconoclasts like Jon Lucien or Terry Callier and you’ll know why Gilles Peterson had to release The Dreamer on his Brownswood label.
But don’t get the idea that James is some kind of nostalgic throwback to another era just because he’s decided to update Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s Spirits Up Above. The elegantly progressive arrangements and James’s phrasing choices are firmly grounded in the here and now. Hiphop fans will know that as soon as he launches into Freestyle Fellowship’s Park Bench People. It’s difficult to say whether an album this live and direct will get any play on urban radio without a huge promotional push, but James is definitely here to stay.