Boney James | Contact
Album Review: Boney James | Contact
By Brian Soergel
Saxophonist Boney James, one of the most consistently appealing players in contemporary jazz, returns with his first CD of all-new music since 2006’s Shine. That was his debut with Concord, and he also released a Christmas CD and covers project with four original songs. James is now with a new record label, Verve-Forecast.
James has always leaned to R&B side of instrumental music, and to his credit he’s expanded his base by inviting new and seasoned vocalists to his projects. Contact continues that formula—it’s the Boney way. The vocal tracks here are what his fans have come to expect: groove-filled ballads with soulful, heartfelt lyrics and singing. You won’t find John Mayer or Rob Thomas doubling down with James—not his style. Here you’ve got LeToya Luckett on “When I Had the Chance,” Mario with “That Look on Your Face,” Heather Headley on “I’m Waiting.” The best of the bunch is “Close to You” with Donnell Jones, his vocals riding over a hip groove, staccato drumming and James’ soprano sax flitting in and out.
That leaves six instrumental tunes for James to flex his horn on and, like the whole CD, all songs were completely produced, arranged and co-written by the artist. Fans won’t be disappointed, as the splendid six are worthy addition to James’ repertoire. “Contact” and “Spin” will be loved in concert, the latter a languid, swaying tune with repeated long and sexy tenor sax lines. The title track is bass heavy, laid back, sure to get you moving. Adding spice is a horn section arranged by Jerry Hey.
“Cry” is a thick, meaty ballad made great with guitar (Dean Parks) and piano (Mark Stephens) accompaniment giving it great texture. Jazz that’s smooth may be gone from the airwaves soon, but “Cry” reminds how nourishing real smooth jazz can be. “Deep Time” is another gem, with soothing wah-wah effects and James’ alto sax
building to repeated climaxes.
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