James Day - Repertoire (2016)

James Day
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A decade into a notable career of penning, producing, and independently releasing authentically soulful, no-frills R&B in the company of revered vocalists and musicians such as Audrey Wheeler, Walter Beasley, Tim Owens, and Donnie, the ever-enterprising James Day has assembled a savory collection highlighting several of his previous collaborations and introducing a selection of new material, aptly entitled Repertoire. Along with appearances by Wheeler and Owens, the impressive guest list this time around also includes Maysa, Trina Broussard, Tony Terry, and Glenn Jones.

A decade into a notable career of penning, producing, and independently releasing authentically soulful, no-frills R&B in the company of revered vocalists and musicians such as Audrey Wheeler, Walter Beasley, Tim Owens, and Donnie, the ever-enterprising James Day has assembled a savory collection highlighting several of his previous collaborations and introducing a selection of new material, aptly entitled Repertoire. Along with appearances by Wheeler and Owens, the impressive guest list this time around also includes Maysa, Trina Broussard, Tony Terry, and Glenn Jones.

The eight-song set kicks off with the Chic-tinged, bottom-heavy “We Dance.” Caressed by the silky pipes of Maysa and the able guitar strides of U-Nam, the groove gets mobile assistance from revered modern-soul production duo Cool Million. “We be dancin’ till there’s holes in our shoes, till the DJ says he’s got no more jams,” Maysa affirms in quietly assured phrasing that captures the comforting and sublime joys of dancing for hours on end. “This is not a dress rehearsal,” she continues, “when we get the chance…” The cool arrangement is further enhanced by expertly placed keyboard layerings and a fine background vocal arrangement which livens up the mood without going over the top.

The tempo is then upped with the charming, swingin’ “Don’t Waste the Pretty.” Originally recorded in 2005 with Jeff Ramsey on vocals, here the track is fronted by Glenn Jones (fresh off his recent success on Cool Million’s similarly-vibed “Tonight”) and remixed by David Doyle. U-Nam once again delivers with soothing guitar finesse, while the slick, percussive backbone emits both disco and fusion nuances.

Day joins forces with composers Jimi Randolph (Aurra, Al Green) and Paula Gallitano (Lalah Hathaway) on the subsequent “Dance Again,” a heart-tugging ballad led by Trina Broussard with beautiful harmonies by Tim Owens. The song is quite an impressionable moment, striking an indefectible balance of sentimentality and strength. The gentle keyboard work complements Broussard’s moving tone and builds accordingly as she soars tenderly through the tune’s climax. The smooth slow-jam vibe is then continued (with an added sway) on Repertoire’s title track, featuring Tony Terry. Breezing along with jazzy horn touches and seamless backing vox by Lin Rountree, “Repertoire” bears the influence of late-‘70s Philly soul balladry with a contemporary jazz feel.

The second half of Repertoire revisits a handful of cuts first heard on Day’s 2013 album Seasons and Reasons and 2009’s Natural Things. Fan favorite “Rewind” (featuring Audrey Wheeler) is here, as well as “Natural Thing” (also with Wheeler) in slightly remixed form. Bringing to mind Champaign’s 1981 hit “How ‘Bout Us” in its chord progression, the reflective ballad sets the perfect mood for slow dancing, embellished by the sax prowess of Walter Beasley. Meanwhile, the Chi-Town Step Mix of “Considered Delivered” gives the endearing duet between Wheeler and Gavin Christopher (RIP) a little extra swagger, making it an idyllically melodious affair. The collection ends on an upbeat note, with “R.S.V.P.” (sung by Donnie) bringing the Repertoire full circle with a “Good Times”-esque mood that will undoubtedly reel in listeners who missed it the first time around.

Whether you take your soul slow and sultry or funky and finger-snappin’, Repertoire is a solid bet for musical fulfillment in its thoughtful design of melodies, arrangements, and vocal performances that soothe the mind and awaken rhythmic sensibilities. Highly recommended.

 

by Justin Kantor

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