London-based jazz vocalist James Hudson says his goal with music is to bring a bit of joy to someone’s day, and he certainly does that with his debut album Tomorrow. Along with his musical collaborators Nick Fitch and Joe Hill, James bring a pleasant twist to classic standards like “Pennies from Heaven,” “Tomorrow” and “Almost Like Being in Love,” that remind us to keep our chins up. He balances it out with a mournful bossa nova version of “It Had to Be You,” and a somber treatment of “Someone to Watch Over Me,” with a beautiful arco bass. James Hudson’s takes on songs that have lasted over 100 years are a sure sign that they’re bound to last a 100 more in the hands of great musicians.
James Hudson says that he almost named his album “Almost Like Being in Love,” but given the present worldwide circumstances, naming the album so lovey-dovey and romantic didn’t feel right. So if the world isn’t waiting for romance, what are they waiting for? “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow, you’re only a day away.” Hudson says though it may seem cheesy, everyone really is hoping that “the sun will come out, tomorrow.” And Hudson says he hope the album will bring a bit of sunshine into someone day, whether they’re on a train or a bus and are listening and they start to feel sunshine because of what they hear.
Of course, the album doesn’t shy away from a good ballad either. “Someone to Watch Over Me” employs a beautiful arco bass, which brings a darker undertone to the album. A bossa nova version of “It Had to Be You,” stands in stark contrast to the iconic Harrick Connick version from “When Harry Met Sally.” Yet, the somber, quiet mood of the bossa nova seems to fit the lyric like a glove.
James Hudson worked in conjunction with two musical directors and friends, guitarist Joe Fitch and pianist Nick Hill. Together they worked to re-imagine these timeless standards. James says that they tossed ideas back and forth, some which ended up as rubbish, and some which ended up being great (which we can only assume are the ones that made it onto the album).
It’s crazy to imagine imagine that many of these songs were written a century ago, yet they continue to surprise and inspire us. Hudson attributes this to two reasons, a) Because they’re so good and so well written, and b) they’re essentially a blank canvas for you to do whatever you want with it. For example, Hudson notes people like Miles Davis, who can take a standard to a whole other stratosphere.
Hudson’s own introduction to the Great American Songbook came during a vacation to the South of France during his early years. When he was about 7, he was left to wander by himself in a record store while on a camping trip with his parents. He heard a swing track, and while he may not remember exactly who was singing, he does remember a light bulb going off. It made an impression on him that lasted to his teen years, when he finally started singing around the age of 14.
After receiving numerous scholarships and awards, Hudson was still hesitant to dive completely into a musical career. A conversation with Kurt Elling at Ronnie Scott’s in London shed some light on the matter. Kurt Elling didn’t originally set out to be a professional singer either, he studied philosophy in college and did gigs in Chicago in the side. Now he’s one of the greatest jazz singers of our generation. Hudson says that since he’s personally made the decision to pursue a musical career, he’s never looked back. He admits that the road isn’t always smooth and “you might have to do a few rubbish things, but eventually, if you’ve got the drive, you’ll make it.”