A Partial Story of Jimmy Luxury and the Tommy Rome Orchestra

(this one's about six pages long, so sit back, relax and soak up the facts)


"Jimmy how do you say break-dance in Spanish?"

"I dunno...breakdance"

Its tough wearing a suit in the heat of Oaxaca Mexico even

if it is a nice linen one tailored for Jimmy and Tommy.

"Hey guys I love your new songs, its just what we been looking for."

says DJ Billy who spins in Mexico, Chile, Peru and Brasil.

"There ain't nobody doing this shit. This is exactly what we been

looking for, something that plays with the borders. That is so fucking

happy it will ass-whoop you out of your depressions.


A grimy North Beach alley, where clotheslines sag

with tattered clothes, torn shirts and a pair of star-spangled

tights. Spilling down a flight of cement stairs are three homeless

men in once-expensive suits belting "I Love Life." Cue the dancing

twins in silver body suits, wearing garbage pail lids for hats, roll

in Jimmy and this drabby scene seems to come fully alive.

Cut to Dempsey's barber shop in the Mission, where black and

white photos hang on the walls and dusty Playboy magazines

rest on a table. Three barbers in matching jackets attend to a

nattily-dressed young man with the sharp blue-eyed, flat-nosed

features of a second-rate Irish pugilist --. Over a phat,

jubilant groove, the young man raps, "I put my pants on

the same way as you, of course/ my pants are just more expensive

than yours."

That's the scene of a video shoot for Jimmy Luxury and

the Tommy Rome orchestra, a raucous hip hop band based out

of Philadelphia, PA and sunny San Francisco. Jimmy, real name

James Kelleher, is an amped up twenty-five-year-old transplant from

Brockton, Massachusetts who spent his first four years in San Francisco

getting fired from a string of bar-backing and floor-mopping jobs

in Mission neighborhood bars. Not unlike the opening of his first

video for Abacaxi records, Jimmy's life made a quick cut from rags to

swing-aesthetic-steeped riches this year, when a demo CD that cost

fifty dollars to record became the subject of a bidding war between

major labels Sony, Island, Warner, Priority and Virgin records.

And it wasn't but a few months later when the band blew up big.

With three songs featured in the movie "Me Myself and Irene", a

song featured on the Go movie soundtrack CD, and three more

songs slated for movies later in 2001, My True Love is (Hip Hop),

their upcoming April 2nd release, has left Jimm y in the rare position of having

virtually everyone who ever kicked him off their couch after two

weeks showing up to try and mug in his videos.

The sudden change was a result of Kelleher meeting Tommy Rome --

real name, James D'Angelo. (Regarding the moniker, Tommy says "I

was going to be Tommy Palermo, but that's my uncle's real name and I didn't

wanna ride in on his thang, ya know! But D'Angelo already is using my real

name and there's a bunch of bands and artists using James, so I had to look around.")

Jimmy on stage December 2001 in Italy


A producer and rapper in Philly-based hip-hop band The Goats, D'Angelo

discovered Kelleher pouring beers at his neighborhood haunt, the

Shotwell 59, two years ago. He recognized in Jimmy -- who has

always been more than willing to drop a freestyle -- a raw,

original talent that warranted cultivation in the studio. The

band started with a dozen rappers, but no one compared to Jimmy.

He wrote five of the songs in an afternoon. The raps were better,

funnier and more on target than everyone else had done.

"He's a genius." Says Tommy Rome.

But despite his background in hip-hop, D'Angelo's primary

interest has long been in the fifties and sixties pop-jazz of his parents and the

psycho pulsing latin rhythms that he has found travelling .

"Jimmy's always been a huge hip-hop fan," he says. "I've always been a big

fan of Tito Puente and Mongo Santamaria. I still listen to that stuff all

the time, even the other stuff like Poncho Negra, Billie Holiday and

Dreary Blossom."

Dreary Blossom?

"She's on [the album]," explains D'Angelo. "Little white girl.

They all had pipes back then. It sort of combines to be

something entirely different, I guess."

The album also highlights two living female Divas. Brett

"Songbird" Abramson from San Francisco and Micaela Saxer from

Perugia Italy. "Most of what people think is Billie Holiday

on the album is actually Brett. And Micaela has been scaring up

the ghosts of Fellini and Nino Rota. We've been told that

both of these women should by right have record

contracts of their own. They're fucking amazing"

Still, the vision

for the album, came about by accident, according to D'Angelo. "I

went to sample some other shit, and I threw in a Tito Puente by

accident, and I was like, what the fuck is this?" It was like

dipping his chocolate into South America's peanut butter; he called

Kelleher right away. "I put a drum beat over it, and that night we

decided to go out and do a photo session. So we did our first

photo session before we did a song."

The photos from that session feature Kelleher and D'Angelo

dressed to the nines and loitering outside the Hungry I in North

Beach. "That's as close as we get to Las Vegas or Tijuana Mexico," says D'Angelo,

laughing. “Not-so-bright lights, not-so-big city. But Jimmy was

always the smallest guy in the biggest high school, so we were

used to it.”

The subsequent demo CD soon slipped into heavy rotation in a

number of Mission neighborhood bar jukeboxes, as well as into the

hands of record executives nationwide. The timing was impeccable.

"I think it's safe to say we probably wouldn't have done this

album anywhere but San Francisco," says D'Angelo. "I think the

jazz scene the latin culture and the hip hop scene here definitely encouraged us.

“For us our mix of sounds is nothing special. Its what we see every day.”


Musically, A Night in the Arms of... doesn't play into the

flavor-of-the-month concept. The samples on the album, despite most

of them being over forty years old, sound surprisingly fresh.

Beneath and between the swinging latin grooves, an outrageous array of

layered scratches, found sounds, and hip-hop and funk vocal samples

interweave. The album does more to serve hip-hop heads a lesson

about frontiersmanship than to offer suburbanites a comfortable

entrance into the Luxury world of funk and hip hop.

The album also features some of the toughest players in San

Francisco. Taylor "Juggy" Cutcomb on piano, Todd Grady on horn,

Erik "Smooth Punch" and Phil "the Jeweler" on bass and drums.

Even though it was recorded in a wharehouse on digital equipment,

the feeling is authentic vintage.

Kelleher's own rapping is deep and hilarious in parts, rich with

stories and setting, and always dripping with charm. Sample lyric:

"You finally punch out and take off your apron/ Like a day off in

hell when the devil's on vacation/ Martini shaker shaking like a

rattlesnake's tail/ I got twenty to bet, fifty for a room and

drinks, and a hundred for bail.../ My bookmaker's in Florida and my

thumbreaker's in jail."

For the few samples they have, legalese can render reality

rather strange. D'Angelo recalls the first time he saw his name

credited for the Jimmy Luxury project, for the song "Cha Cha Cha"

on the Go soundtrack. "For the writers of the main groove,

it says James D'Angelo -- my real name -- James Kelleher -- his

real name -- and four people who are dead, who we've never met. And

they probably didn't even write the groove. Back in the day,

writership was [attributed to] the person who wrote the melody.

They didn't even give any credit to grooves."

It's all there: more pinky rings, fedoras, horse tracks, cha cha chas and

perfumed dames than you could inhale watching an A&E movie

marathon. In fact, Kelleher plunged so deep into his International

persona for the project that at times it became difficult for his

friends to distinguish the artist from the product. "Jimmy Luxury

is just in me," he says. "It took a little pushing: you watch a

few movies, you do a little research. [But] it was easy. It was

very natural for me."

As D'Angelo puts it: "Like DeNiro was born to play in Mean

Streets, Jimmy was born to do this."

 Tommy Rome in New Jersey 2002








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the new CD...

read the biography

check out lyrics

the first CD...

see a video clip