London-based jazz vocalist James Hudson is releasing his debut album ‘TOMORROW’ in February 2021.
James was the NYJO Jazz Orchestra’s vocal chair for 3 years from 2015-2018. While at NYJO, he met the young musicians who would later embark on this musical journey with him, making TOMORROW an album entirely made up of NYJO alumni! We sat down (virtually) with James to ask him about this project, his career and time at NYJO.
Hi James, easy one to get us started… how are you feeling?
Better…now that 2020 is over! After the last 10 months it’s hard to even tell how I’m feeling anymore and I know a lot of other musicians feel exactly the same. With all of the constant rule and tier changes we have not known whether we’re coming or going – gigs getting booked, postponed, cancelled, re-booked, cancelled again – what a rollercoaster of a year!
It’s been a tough one, but I think I’ve learnt a lot about myself and the importance of the music industry and the arts as a whole has really shone through. Lockdown really made me realise how much I missed playing live music!
Tell us about your upcoming album, ‘TOMORROW’.
It’s my debut album that i’ll be releasing on Friday, 26th of February 2021! It’s by far the biggest – and scariest – milestone of my career so far but I’m so excited to get it out into the world for people to hear.
I have a bit of an obsession with jazz standards and for so long I’ve wanted to record my own album where I can give my own take on these timeless songs whilst taking inspiration from my biggest influences such as Oscar Peterson, Mel Tormé, Nat King Cole and many more.
That’s basically what ‘TOMORROW’ is – I’ve been working on it for over 2 years now and am really proud of the arrangements I did together with the Musical Directors and NYJO alumni Nick Fitch and Joe Hill. We chose a mixture of our favourite rare and celebrated standards for the record, and from the very beginning had the vision for this album to have an old-school feel with a modern edge.
It was recorded at Ladbroke Studios in West London just before the global pandemic hit and during lockdown the album was actually mixed remotely by another NYJO Alumni Darren Williams at ‘The Den Studios’. The cherry on the cake for me was getting the album mastered at Abbey Road studios which has always been a dream of mine!
If you want to take a sneak-peek, James has recently released 3 singles from the album which you can check out below:
Why did you choose It Had to Be You and Almost Like Being in Love as the first singles?
I wanted to showcase the different styles on the album with these single releases – so starting with a relaxing Bossa Nova followed by an up-tempo swinger (with quite a few surprises thrown in) felt perfect for that. It really gives people a taste for what we recorded – without revealing too much…and keeping some of the best songs for the full album release.
These songs have such fantastic melodies and lyrics [written by Irving Berlin/Gus Kahn and Learner/Loewe] that I knew listeners could relate to and enjoy. Almost Like Being in Love is one of my all time favourite jazz standards and even before the recording process this was one of my favourite arrangements on the album.
The band is composed of NYJO alumni – Joe Hill on Piano, Nick Fitch on Guitar, Luke Tomlinson on Drums, and Jack Tustin on Bass. Tell us about how you met and why you decided to invite them to do this project?
I met all of these guys during my 3 years as Vocal Chair for NYJO. We’ve been working together for over 5 years now and done countless gigs all over the UK and Europe – it definitely makes things easier when you’re good mates with the people you work with.
Individually they are all brilliant musicians and after years of working together as a rhythm section they have such a great understanding between them. This was one of the key reasons I wanted them on this project – plus the fact they all have the same passion for jazz and swing music as me, which really brought the music to life.
How did you find the process of crowdfunding for the album? Would you have any advice for musicians considering doing the same in the future?
Without the Crowdfunding campaign I simply wouldn’t have been able to do this album. It was a huge help and gave me the boost I needed to take this album to the next level which i’m hugely grateful for. I would definitely recommend it to other musicians, not only as a fundraising method but also because it’s a brilliant way of engaging people in your project from an early stage. It involves the supporters in the process meaning these people can see it grow and are even more excited to hear the end product.
How has NYJO helped kickstart your career? Would you recommend it to young musicians wanting to play Jazz?
NYJO gave me the opportunity to perform with some of the top young jazz musicians in the UK that I simply wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet without it. I got the chance to regularly sing with a big band and to learn from the concerts and shows we did all over the country at world class venues. This priceless experience gave me the confidence and fundamental skills to go out there and do it myself as a self-employed
I would definitely recommend it to any budding young jazz musicians – just go for it!
Do you think jazz has specific benefits for young musicians starting their musical journey?
Whatever type of music you enjoy playing – I think jazz can always broaden your horizons and teach you new ideas about every style of music. Jazz has influenced so many genres over the years and continues to do so. As a young musician I would definitely involve jazz in your learning in some way, to really test your musical development.
Global pandemic aside, what will you remember 2020 by?
I think i’ll remember 2020 for the time it allowed me to fully focus on creating my first album in a way that I just wouldn’t have been able to before. And as a year that everyone really pulled together during worrying times.
We would like to thank James for taking the time to talk with us and wish him all the best for the future.