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Jose James: Maximum Seductiveness

Melding jazz with electronica may be a dicey proposition, but when the combination is executed as deftly as it is on Jose James' "Detroit Loveletter," the result can be smart and sexy. The song's producer, Moodymann, is based in the titular city, and he's long had a knack for incorporating that town's multifaceted musical legacy into soul-stirring deep house. Here, Moodymann uses the legacy of Motown — most notably Marvin Gaye and two of Gaye's most revered producers, Norman Whitfield and Leon Ware — as a jumping-off point, infusing James' sound with wah-wah guitar, overdubbed vocal harmonies and shadowy rhythms.

Still, James' silken baritone remains in the spotlight throughout "Detroit Loveletter," as he croons words crafted for maximum seductiveness. The improvisational pliancy of his singing reveals his jazz bona fides. He never mentions Detroit in the song, but when he sings "Feel like dancing" over a four-on-the-floor pulse, his shout-out to that city's deep house scene rings loud and clear.

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John Murph
John Murph writes about music and culture and works as a web producer for He also contributes regularly to The Washington Post Express, JazzTimes, Down Beat, and JazzWise magazines.
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