As D'Angelo fans wait anxiously for a soulful follow-up record to the R&B singer's 2000 sophomore stunner Voodoo, the label that released that record is now issuing a 12-song live set recorded in 1995.
Live at the Jazz Café, London: The Complete Show, out March 25th, contains recordings initially released on a rare Japanese EP alongside five previously unreleased tracks from when D'Angelo released his debut album Brown Sugar. The set contains several cover songs, including his renditions of cuts by Smokey Robinson, Earth, Wind and Fire, Al Green and Mandrill, and an extended version of his single "Lady."
Rolling Stone is premiering two songs that did not originally make it onto the Japanese EP – a short cover of Ohio Players' "Sweet Sticky Thing" and the Brown Sugar track "Jonz in My Bonz" – below. Clocking in at just over 90 seconds, the cover straddles a wide berth of funk and jazz while keeping close to the original's soulful roots, as D'Angelo moans along to the instrumental parts. Musically, "Jonz in My Bonz" segues in perfectly with the click-clack of drumsticks until settling into a jumpy, woozy, propulsive rhythm. It's a typically impassioned performance and highlights backup vocals by pre-fame R&B songstress Angie Stone, who also co-wrote the song.
Quoted in the release's liner notes, D'Angelo commented on his influences at the time, as well as the role jazz played in his music. "My root is gospel, and I grew up listening to Prince and hip-hop on the radio," he said. "Jazz came much later. I am like a music historian, and just listen to old music whenever I have time, like vintage jazz. I think that's where my jazziness is coming from. I love jazz."
He also discussed why he has long felt the need to play more than one instrument, often changing from song to song. "I don't want to have too big of an ego, but if you do everything yourself, you will never lose control," he said. "You can create your music as you please. That's what I wanted. And this is the only way to fully express myself."
Although D'Angelo has returned to the stage in recent years, he remains a somewhat mysterious figure as rumors about his comeback album abound. Roots drummer and D'Angelo collaborator Questlove has said that the album will be a "radical 180 turn" from his past releases and later reported in January 2013 that the record was "99 percent done" and they were "tightening up loose ends." The record, however, remains unreleased – despite D'Angelo's intermittent touring and impromptu jam-session appearances.
The artist's next big upcoming appearance, however, is not musical by design. The Red Bull Music Academy will be spotlighting him as a public speaker at a New York City event in May for what they've dubbed "A Conversation With D'Angelo." The event's producers promise an "intimate public lecture session," and, judging from one of D'Angelo's most "recent" videos, it could take some very intimate turns indeed.
Live at the Jazz Café, London: The Complete Show track list
2. "Fencewalk" (Mandrill cover)
3. "Sweet Sticky Thing" (Ohio Players cover)
4. "Jonz in My Bonz"
5. "Me and Those Dreamin’ Eyes of Mine"
6. "Shit, Damn, Motherfucker"
7. "Cruisin’" (Smokey Robinson cover)
8. "I’m Glad You’re Mine" (Al Green cover)
11. "Can’t Hide Love"
12. "Brown Sugar"