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Bob James: Piano Player

R.J. DeLuke By

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"I personally feel proud we accomplished what we originally set out to do," he says. "We had it in our minds that we did not want to have it just be a one-off, all-star recording project. We speculated a lot about what it takes to make a group last long enough to have a group identity. We were well aware of the groups that preceded us and the groups of that time. We talked a lot about using the Modern Jazz Quartet as a representative of what we were going to attempt to do—our version of it. In almost every way, we did it. We stayed with it. It took a lot off compromising on the part of everybody's schedules and a lot of times artistic direction, not always agreeing. That kind of stuff. We went through what all groups go through to stay together as a team and keep moving forward.

"We have all these recordings now that represent that and represent our legacy. We still have fans from all over the world ask about us and are pushing us very hard to stay together, even tough we have a big challenge to try to figure out what to do to fill the major shoes that Chuck Loeb left as his legacy." He doesn't take anything away from Ritenour or Carlton, but "there was something about the sum total of what Chuck contributed, to keep our spirit going, to keep our music fresh and to keep us moving forward. His combination of skills. A great composer. Great producer. Amazing skill in the studio. He brought so much experience to us. Maybe just as important was his team spirit. He was very humble. Very willing to work as a team player. Very respectful of the history that came before him. Anytime we'd be playing music that was created by Lee or Larry, Chuck would fully get into the spirit of it."

James says it's too early to determine Fourplay's next move. Replacing Loeb had not been seriously discusses as yet.

Through the decades, James has learned, experienced and enjoyed music in its best forms. It is hard to narrow it down. But don't ask him to pick a favorite period. It's like trying to pick a favorite child, he says. "All I can some up with is that I'm a really lucky guy. I've had the chance to do it all. And I don't have to pick a favorite. That's much more for the listener to decide that."

His strong relationship with saxophonist Sanborn could result in a future collaboration as James' career moves on. "I hope so. We have the consequences of busy schedules—it took us more than 25 years before we went back and did the sequel to the most successful album either of us had ever had, the Double Vision that we did that won a Grammy award in 1986. Very often we talked about collaborating again, but many things got in the way of it. We both were busy. I felt it was great we did have a chance to reunite and make this record Quartette Humaine five years ago."

"It seems like these days the music business has changed a lot. There's much more pressure to tour in support of a recording project. For a variety of reasons. It's kind of a big deal to make a commitment to collaborate. I have reached the point where I've had so many collaborations. One of the things I saw that was missing for my output was my own solo projects. Right now, I'm in the middle of having the opportunity to cast aside the temptation to do other collaborations. It's always been stimulating to me to encounter another great artist I admire and see if I'm up to the challenge of doing a collaboration. I know it will always have its appeal. But I'm feeling I'm going to have to pick and choose pretty carefully. I've got only so many creative years left and I want to make sure I make the best of them."


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