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Issue 1084

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Review

Boney James: The Beat (Concord Records)

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8

6.1

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UK release date 08.04.2013

Three-time Grammy nominee, sax star Boney James has returned to former label Concord Records with a dynamic, genre-busting album "The Beat." A very successful instrumental artist with sales of more than three million records, Jamesâ new project fuses his R&B/Jazz roots with Latin rhythm and percussion.

His inspiration for the record was Sergio Mendesâ âBatucada (The Beat),â which he re-imagined as a funk tune.â âBatucada (The Beat)â reunites Boney with trumpet great Rick Braun. That track and the vibe it creates sums up the whole 10 track album for me: COOL. yeah very cool indeed.

Other guests on the project include eclectic R&B soul singer Raheem DeVaughn and spoken word phenom The Floacist. The first single is track five âMaker of Love,â a soulful song featuring DeVaughn. Raheem and James met by following each other on Twitter. James sent him the track and he came back with the lyric and a finished vocal.

UK poet and musician The Floacist brings a seductive flow to âThe Midas (This is Why)â which adds to the World Music flavor of the album. Other stand outs on the album include Jamesâ fresh take on Stevie Wonderâs R&B/Latin classic âDonât You Worry âBout a Thing,â along with originals by James that run the gamut from subtle and sophisticated with tracks like âAcalento (Lullaby)â and âMariâs Song,â to high energy with âSunset Boulevard,â and âPowerhouse.â

James produced the record and wrote or co-wrote eight songs. In addition to his Grammy nominations, James is a Soul Train Award winner (Best Jazz Album) and has been honored with an NAACP Image Award nomination for Best Jazz Album. He has accumulated four RIAA Certified Gold Records. To date, nine of James' albums have reached No. 1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart and two have reached the top 10 on the R&B Albums Chart, a rare feat for an instrumental artist. My money would be on this one doing brisk business and getting some awards nods too. Perhaps one could say that Boney James embodies the phrase: âhorn of plenty.â But he certainly doesnât make records to a formual, even though he has the midas touch. As he says: âThere was no sense that this had to be a certain thing,â recalls James, who was between labels when he began recording the album. âI was recording for fun, experimenting with this hybrid R&B and Latin sound, two genres I love. So my playing on this album has a different energy. I think itâs one of the best records Iâve ever done.â

The music has been flowing ever since he took up the clarinet at the age of eight. Switching to the saxophone, he began playing in dance bands at 14. Born in Lowell, Massachusetts and raised in New Rochelle, NY, James counts Wonder, legendary musician/songwriter/producer Quincy Jones Earth, Wind & Fire and saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. as major influences. James later honed his R&B chops while touring and doing session work for such marquee names as the Isley Brothers, Randy Crawford and Ray Parker Jr. Conversant on the tenor, alto and soprano saxophones, James debuted as a solo artist in 1992 with Trust. Cited as virtually creating the urban jazz genreâmelding contemporary jazz with hip-hop sensibilitiesâ during the course of his 21-year career, James has built a solid reputation as a compelling live performer.

But, between his two most recent albumsâ2009âs Send One Your Love (Concord) and 2011âs Contact (Verve)âJames was wondering if heâd ever play the sax again. He was rear-ended by a drunk driver on a Los Angeles highway. His car totaled, James suffered a fractured jaw and lost two teeth as well as the ability to play for two months.

That period is now thankfully a dim memory as James returns to Concord, ready to step up his game with The Beat. âThe music Iâm making comes with different elements that need to be experienced, not pre-judged or categorized,â he says. âI just want to be fresh, not derivative.â
Words SIMON REDLEY

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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