Hard Groove: James Poyser



1. used to describe a rhythmic quality of music that is emotionally communicative and soulful; used for music moving at a steady beat. 

If you are hip to The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, then you know and have seen James Poyser many times, whether it be playing with guest artists on the show, backing with the Roots, or playing the famous intro music to the "Thank You Cards" segment on the show.  However, even though James is quite funny on the show, he has been more than a laugh on The Tonight Show.

James, along with many others, is a member of the Soulquarians, which is a supergroup of neosoul and hip-hop musicians that all contribute on each other's recordings.  This super-collective started when a few different artists were all recording in the same studio in different rooms.  As time allowed, everyone ended up contributing to each other's recordings, which has set a standard for their music in the future.  To be honest, I truly believe that he is one of the most important, if not THE most important member that crew.  The reason for this is because not only does Poyser play keyboards on these artists' albums, but he also produces a most of them, and writes a lot of their music as well.  This guy is truly a genius/badass/major cool-guy.

Poyser has played with, produced for, and written for The Roots, Erykah Badu, Nas, Talib Kweli, D'Angelo, Jill Scott, Joss Stone, Roy Hargrove, Anthony Hamilton, Al Green, John Legend, Musiq Soulchild, Bilal, Rihanna, Adele, Ziggy Marley, and many more.  This guy is a true visionary.  But anywho... Let's get to the tracks, eh?!

This first tune is off of Erykah Badu's, Worldwide Underground, called "Danger", written by Poyser.  This features a sweet piano intro that soon blasts a fat groove.  This is definitely a tune that is to be played loud on good speakers because it is a BANGER!  The next song is written by Poyser called, "Everybody", as performed by Anthony Hamilton.  This is a grooooooovy jam that combines elements of reggae, R&B, and soul.  I personally love the guitar Motown-esque guitar parts that play riffs throughout.

Here's some cool video of James in the studio.  The first is with Al Green recording for Al's album, Lay It Down. You can see how fun James is to work with.  The second video is of him and Adam Blackstone recording for Pharrell's "Take it Off".  The third is with some of the Soulquarian crew recording with the great J Dilla.  This is a little insight of how the Soulquarians operated in the studio; most of the songs that made it on albums started as jams as this one did.  The third is a MUST WATCH.

These next two videos are great interview videos to kind of get to see what he's about as a keyboard player and a producer.  He talks in the first about some of the recording process with the musicians he's worked with.

Here's a funny compilation video of him on The Tonight Show.


So, not only is this guy a baaaaad dude, insane key player, and great writer/producer... He is also just a fun guy, which is super important as a musician; it's good to work with people who are upbeat, happy, fun, and positive and he is definitely all of that.  So, needless to say, James Poyser is Hard Groove.

Comments welcome.  Peace.