We never need an excuse to celebrate rare genius, but on occasion the universe conspires to remind us how important it is to appreciate the tremendous creative minds that still walk among us. At least, that's how it felt to Blue Note recording artist José James when it dawned on him that 2018 will mark the 80th birthday of a True American Great, singer-songwriter Bill Withers.
"I was so depressed losing Sharon Jones, Prince, David Bowie.. legend after legend after legend," says James. "I realized this is an opportunity to hold onto what we have." An ace genre-blurring vocalist and bandleader, James has won acclaim for his deeply felt tributes to Billie Holiday and John Coltrane. But this is his most ambitious idea yet: a two-year world tour playing the Withers songbook backed by an incredible band handpicked for the job, kicked off with a live EP, accompanied by a video series, and a culminating in an LP release. Best of all the project comes vetted by mighty Withers himself, who frankly seems tickled by the whole thing.