By Dylan Bryant (Music Editor)
After the international success of the first volume, Blue Note Re:imagined is returning for a second edition featuring a collection of classic Blue Note tracks recorded by the future stars of the UK scene, including Nubiyan Twist, Swindle, Franc Moody, Reuben James and many more.
Arriving off the back of the widespread acclaim of the first volume, which topped jazz charts around the globe, Blue Note Re:imagined II, once again infuses the spirit of the new UK jazz generation into the legendary label’s iconic catalogue, balancing the genre’s tradition with its future.
I asked Reuben James some questions about his involvement, music and creativity, starting by asking about where his love of music came from;
“I fell in love with music going on long road trips with my Mum, Dad and Sister and listening to different mixtapes that they’d make with Frank Sinatra and Buena Vista Social Club. I also remember listening to my sister who’s a bit older than me; playing piano from a very young age. Also, my parent’s extensive vinyl collection – Music was a massive part of my life and it was in every aspect of life. Music would always shape everything and it’s the first thing that I remember falling in love with.”
Reuben is effortless as he describes his romance with music, and his passion is obvious as he adds;
“I just love to dance; I remember going to family parties and just dancing.”
Reuben is becoming one of the most respected new acts on the scene and with his extensive knowledge and undoubtable talent it’s no surprise that he’s worked with some of the industry’s biggest stars; notably Disclosure and Sam Smith. Speaking on working with these artists and the collaboration process, he says;
“The writing process and working with people like Sam Smith is incredible. Sam’s ability to just flow out the most beautiful melodies is almost the perfect combination for what I do. I’m so in love with harmony and I feel like what I do goes so well with what Sam does. So, it’s just kind of effortless the way we create. Sam always has amazing concepts and beautiful lyrics and incredible melodies. So, it’s so easy and quick and so fast to work with Sam.”
Speaking on Disclosure, Reuben says;
“I love bringing harmony, rhythm and chords to the table. I have a love for dance and groove. They can basically take a chord progression that I do and turn in it to the grooviest, most funky thing you’ve ever heard. It’s a dream come true working with Disclosure. They’re one of my favourite bands in the world and they’re geniuses at what they do. It’s always beautiful being able to add my own little stamp on things.”
Elaborating on the processes of working with other musicians and working for himself, He
“The difference is that when you’re working with someone else, you try to facilitate their story and really lock in to whatever they’re trying to present, whatever story they’re trying to tell and you’re trying to recreate the kind of thing that they want to put out in terms of the mood, the groove, the vibe and the production. Whereas, when I’m doing my own music, I don’t have to compromise anything, I don’t have to look for other people’s opinions. I’ve got the freedom to tell my own story. It’s beautiful to have that freedom. To have people sing it back and see it in a live setting is so beautiful to me.”
Although Reuben is making his name in the jazz and blues scene, he’s evidently flexed his ability across a range of musical genres. Speaking on artists he’d like collaborate with, he says;
“I would love to collaborate with Anderson. Paak. That would be so cool. Also Snoop Dogg would be cool, why not!”
Hesitantly, bringing up the pandemic, I asked Reuben; How have you found playing shows post pandemic?
“Playing shows post pandemic has been the best feeling in the world! I don’t know if I think it feels way better because there was so much uncertainty about whether we would come back to shows again. The reaction from audiences has been so amazing. It’s the best feeling in the world performing. There’s no better feeling. If I could be on stage every single night, then I would. Post pandemic gigs are a big vibe right now – for the audience and the performers.”
From playing shows across the world, working with some of the industry’s biggest names and being named Rising Star at the 2014 British Jazz Awards, Reuben has achieved so much in his musical career. I asked, what is your proudest achievement in music?
“The proudest moment of my musical career is probably playing The Grammy Awards with Mary J and Sam Smith. Also getting to jam with Joni Mitchell recently has also been amazing. Also getting to play festivals with my own band, doing my own music and hearing people sing back my lyrics is just wild to me and I absolutely love it.”
Reuben contributes to Blue Note Re:imagined II with his stunning take on Wayne Shorter’s ‘Infant Eyes’. With his intricate musicality and effortless talent, Reuben provides a beautiful composition of a Blue Note classic with a modern twist. Speaking on the track, Reuben says;
“Wayne Shorter is a big inspiration to me as a composer and also as a soloist – Just an all-round bad ass. I actually had the privilege of opening up for Wayne Shorter with my trio many moons ago in Birmingham, when I was 18. Ever since then, ‘Infant Eyes’ has always been one of my favourite songs. When I thought about reinventing the track, I wanted to bring my own spin to it. I googled a few different versions and I found out someone had written lyrics to it, so I thought it would be nice to sing. I wanted to bring a bit more of a modern flex to it, but also trying to stay true to the harmony and putting a little piano solo on it. It was really fun to reimagine. Also, I became an uncle this year and I’m just about to become a dad for the first time, so that song felt really appropriate.”
Blue Note Re:imagined II is set to be released September 30th , and I finished by asking Reuben about his feelings on the project;
“It feels incredible to be a part of this project, really cool. Blue Note and all of their projects have shaped my life and my musical taste – It’s legendary. It’s an honour and a privilege to be involved.”
Blue Note Re:imagined II out September 30th .