Playing piano from a very early age, Birmingham-born Reuben James studied classical music at his home city’s conservatoire and at London’s Trinity College of Music. Particularly active as a singer, at the 2014 British Jazz Awards he was named Rising Star.
Attracting very favourable attention, perhaps more through his singing than his playing, James moved stylistically into several genres, including contemporary pop, R&B and soul. He has also written songs, some of which have been performed by leading pop singers, among them Sam Smith, with whom he toured internationally.
This release, which is on his own label, Rufio Records, has James joining forces with a number of other British and American singers and instrumentalists, all of whom are well known in various areas of contemporary pop. These include Conor Albert, Roy Ayers, Ben Carr (aka Carrtoons), Braxton Cook, Joel Culpepper, House of EL, Vula Malinga and Ric Wilson. It is James, however, who is the dominant voice, and that voice is high-pitched yet commanding.
For those unfamiliar with his vocal sound it may at first be surprising but it intrigues and draws in the listener. Indeed, James attracts a widespread following at his club and concert dates and through extensive radio work, notably on BBC Radio 2.
Many readers, especially the older generation, will find that the jazz link has been stretched and it might be wise for them to listen to a track or two before diving in. This caveat apart, they might well be pleasantly surprised.
Toast; Champagne Kisses; Means The World; This Could Be; Love Stoned; Sun Goes Down; Time Will Tell; Do To Me; Satisfaction; Deep End (28.42)
Reuben James (v) with others (see text). California, 2022.