Panamanian-American vocalist José James has made a career out of blurring the borders of jazz music. His music is known for incorporating sounds and style from modern genres like hip-hop and R&B, yet staying true to the spirit of jazz performance at the same time.
His latest album, however, he changes direction and returns to the music that inspired him to become a jazz singer in the first place: the music of Billie Holiday. On Yesterday I Had The Blues (Blue Note), Jose James pays tribute to Billie Holiday with stripped-down covers of standards she made famous – from “God Bless The Child” to “Strange Fruit.”
Jose James sits down with Maria Hinojosa at Latino USA studios to chat about why Billie Holiday should be a feminist and activist icon and her enduring influence on popular American music.
Below, hear Jose James perform Billie Holiday’s music live in Belgium, in 2012.