First of all, I'll admit this CD should have found it's way into the hands of KFAI's Marlon Ferry of Hurakan Caribe or to KMOJ Radio's Bongo Jerie Show. But it didn't. Instead, it
landed smack dab in the folds of the full bodied blues. Which is a good thing because it gives me the opportunity to let you in on something interesting that I've discovered.
Jose' James is a versatile veteran performer whose skills unfold on this recording like the petals of a jungle flower. A 43(ish) year old native of the Paradiso region of the
Panama Canal, James' music much like his speaking voice, is flavored with the Latino/Caribbean accent he uses so crisply. Released in 2001, Jungle to Jungle is a feast of percussion delight, showcasing James on timbales, doumbeks, talking drums, congas and berimbao as well as flute, bass guitar, synthesizers and vocals. Conspicuously missing though from this disc were healthy palatable servings of Jose' saxophone work. But then, maybe I'll just have to get my traditional-sax jones satisfied by his live performances. And in the last 25 years, he's had plenty of stage time, ranging from work with Willie & the Bees, Bonnie Raitt, Shangoya, Ipso Facto and Lorie Line to touring with national acts UB40, Tracy Chapman and Ziggy Marley.
Jungle to Jungle is released on James' own label, JNJ Records and offers 8 tracks that link the urban jungle to it's primeval predecessor. The latin-techno dance cuts(Just
Be Good and Electro Slap) put you very much in the middle of a sweaty pulsating urban singles scene. And after listening to Vamos' A Bailar, I'm willing to bet you'll have learned some spanish language. But my favorite tunes are the Afro-spiced Camel Ride and Zulu Dance for blending Africa and techno into what might well become the future sound of world music. However, the stand-out track on Jungle to Jungle is also the longest and most unexpected. Look! Eternity! with its delicate flute and talking drum
transports Jose' and the listener from familiar surroundings back in time to the mystery Goddess religions of the Middle East. From the sound of birds and water at the beginning of the track to the faint Tibetan monk chantings, Look! Eternity! provides spiritual balance to those that are looking for it. An that is, after all, what we turn to music
for, isn't it. To find peace and possibly some transcendence. But enough chakra-talk.
Jungle to Jungle is a fine example of what a multi-faceted performer like Jose' James can do. He is as technically proficient as he is musically gifted and these days, that is
what is required of the upwardly mobile music professional. To be able to bend technology/equipment and musical instruments to your will. With that said, I do have to
remind you that no matter how good an artist is in the studio, his or her strengths or weaknesses are revealed in live performance. And that's where Jose' shines. When he's
on stage sharing energy with his band mates and the live audience. Listen to the CD recording of "Jungle to Jungle" but stand in front of the stage wherever(and with whomever), Jose' James is playing and listen as he transports you back to a time when the wind flowed free and there were no concrete jungles.
Rollin & Tumblin
KFAI Radio - Mpls
90.3FM & 106.7FM
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