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Boney James: The Beat Goes On

Belinda Ware By

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Music is such a personal thing. When I am making a record, I want to make sure that I am feeling it.
Saxophonist Boney James is a prolific musician and songwriter gifted with an ear for creating music inspired by artistic expressionism. As an architect of original songs, James is an intellectual man of modest demeanor who has established himself as a musical pioneer in his intuitive discovery of the formula for longevity in his mellifluous career spanning three decades. At the root of his professional success is his meditative passion for exploring uncharted paths as a songwriter and interpreter of songs. As an instrumental artist, James is driven by his personal joy and curiosity to explore and discover new inventive aesthetics to creating sound in the key of jazz.

At the core of his personal perspective, James is a renaissance man motivated by a simple melody or a catchy hook brewing inside his inner being. In the spirit of pure innovation, James manages to keep the saxophone front and center as a veritable lead vocalist of melodic expression in the ever evolving world of contemporary jazz.

As a songsmith and interpreter of music, his creative flow is distinctive and incorporates his natural ability to touch the hearts of music listeners through honest melodies that mirror life's moments and experiences, emotionally as well as through the message behind the music. James has found a way to achieve all of this project by project through aiming to innovate in the sound of jazz and at the same time uncover new dimensions to his signature sound, as well as his message to the human race.

With a catalog of multiple charting records that span across his career to date, James has garnered both industry and public accolades with ten No. 1 Albums on Billboard, four gold albums, a Soul Train Award for Best Jazz Album along with a second nomination, four Grammy nominations, and two NAACP Image Award nominations.

When it comes to the live stage, James' public appeal as a jazz instrumentalist reflects his intuitive charisma to connect with his audience as he emotes a soaring improvisational serenade on the melody via his saxophone while walking across the stage to begin a concert set. James' performance style is reminiscent of the legendary Grover Washington Jr., whose instrumental voice is a source of continued inspiration to James' evolutionary musical style.

When it comes to his saxophone, it can be described as his bodacious duet partner seen by his side as he enters concert stages as well as when he goes in studio for a one-on-one radio interview illustrative of his dedication to his craft. James has found his niche in the present day jazz scene as a sought after main act on top jazz festivals and cruises where he continues to dominate as a crowd favorite and studio hit maker. In a recent interview, James described his view of what it's like to perform in a live concert setting. He shared, "After recording a song, I love performing it live because it grows and develops itself with each opportunity to play live. I can be free to improvise in the moment which is an amazing experience to share with fans."

James' talents as a music writer and arranger are rooted in his fascination with the power of harmonious sound and its unlimited potential to transform itself. His inspiration often emanates through his reflection upon the human emotions involved in life experiences with the goal to capture his perspective and feelings on the essence of love and the pursuit of happiness through his golden tenor sax. While working on his most recent project, he found himself in studio mixing variable degrees of intensities of Latin jazz, funk and R&B leading up to the recording of a fresh rhythmic exposition that has as its foundation the signature Boney James' sound.

The Beat (Concord Records, 2013) is James' most recent hit CD release that speaks volumes of the personal testimony of James' personality, perspective, and musicianship in depth and style. When asked about his inspiration for this project, he shared "I wanted to create a new project full of songs that represented where I am now as far as what I know about life, love and keeping it all fresh and new." When it comes to the musical interpretation of the project itself, James' performance in studio is concentrated coming from pure emotion and soul.

Overall The Beat embodies the essence of today's R&B mixed with Latin rhythms riding upon the foundation of contemporary jazz as seen in the variable instrumental tracks and collaborations introduced. James is grounded in his approach to creating music that emanates the aesthetics of touching human experiences (such as falling in love) from his personal perspective. The album includes up-tempo and soft ballads, representing a mixture of multiple genres building the foundation for songs like James' rendition of Sergio Mendes "Batucada."

"Batucada" is a funky up-tempo track that features Rick Braun on trumpet. James and Braun play in unison on the chorus leading to impressive soaring solos on the verses. The tune embodies a solid Latin jazz groove deep in richness and excitement in its festive improvisational statement and mood. James' sax steps front and center on the intro and attacks the melody in a groovacious series of electric runs delivering solid improvisational hooks that make this song a lead track with Latin flare. In focus, the song has an infectious hook with the upbeat danceable rhythm that grooves deep in the pocket. James builds the momentum throughout the song with fervent melodic runs on his sax all the while keeping the purity of his stylistic originality as an artist intact.

With admiration for the catalog of Stevie Wonder, James chose to recreate one of his favorite tunes by Wonder, a Latin/R&B hybrid, "Don't You Worry Bout a Thing." James' interpretation shines with eloquent horn arrangements creating an instrumental rendition that is poignant and masterful. James makes this track his own as his saxophone sings with heartfelt phrasing and thoughtful intention that establishes this single as one of a kind that is refreshingly new in its originality as opposed to a cover song.

James elevates from up-tempo dance tracks to heartfelt love songs taking the listener into the world of the sensuous art of romance through several romantic ballads that transcend the essence of art through music. Through musical collaborations with select artists from various genres on feature tracks, James took it upon himself to create a CD that contains a potpourri of musical flavors and styles culminating in a project that can reach a variety of audiences.

The colorful, delicate sounds and expressive tones in "Maker of Love "create a dynamic ambiance of the embodiment of pure romance. James' saxophone sings of the beauty of falling in love in a velvety smooth duet with Grammy nominated R&B singer, Raheem DeVaughan. Like the music James creates, the story of how the two of these artists came together to work on this particular track can best be described as sheer spontaneity. After connecting by chance on Twitter, they began recording their parts to this particular song which resulted in the track becoming a keeper. The mutual synergy between James and DeVaughan breaks down the walls of intellect to expose the open emotions of being in love, the connection to fight for love and the hope of a love that lasts forever.

The song is vibrant in emotional tone both lyrically and musically creating the ambiance of sentiment and human adoration through affectionate lyrics such as "Your Colgate smile, those pretty brown eyes...like a DaVinci painting art girl, and if I can make you with a magic wand, I wouldn't make you no other kind of way. You was made by the maker of love." James digs deep into his R&B roots to capture the moments vibing from the melody to permeate the setting of romance.

James delivers a mixture of blues and jazz in a delicate sax performance that flows like water fluidly over an acoustical electric guitar creating the setting for the heartfelt ballad, "Missing you." This tune is a song of longing and reflection in the format of a modern day jazz instrumental ballad that is personal for James as heard in his vivid, emotional expression through brass. It is a song that begins in a soft conversational tone through the instrumental melody that converses in the universal language of love. James breathes life into the notes that connect to communicate the essence of missing someone you love in a righteously honest and reflective moment in time.

Hip hop meets jazz on "The Midas," an urban, afro-centric, street savvy mid tempo track that blends the def poetry skills of neo soul recording artist, Floacist, with James' breezy flow on sax. Floacist drops poetic stanzas with a sensual touch behind the lyrics that vibe the essence of bold feminine expression on the tune's verses while James comes in with vivid improvisations on the chorus. The aftermath is an eclectic presentation of jazz poetry fused into the foundation of drums, bass and sax in a jam session that holds its own. "The Midas" is funky art that reflects itself. In this track, James shows his ability to connect with hip hop culture and jazz listeners in a song that is universal in its broadness of expression. The track exhibits his interpretation of hip hop flow on top of contemporary jazz resulting in a groovalicious beat of rhythm and jazz.

With the selection of songs that make up The Beat, James challenges the status quo perception of jazz, presenting a new understanding of the music's unlimited boundaries. James is consistent in his freestyle approach of mixing musical flavors with the purity of precision of an artist with paint and canvass. This project is more than a musical release. It is a project born from deep reflection and soul searching that has brought forth an artistically authentic CD filled with inspirational songs that paint the picture of the beauty of long term relationships, overcoming obstacles and facing life with conviction to persevere through any circumstance—all communicated entirely instrumentally.

In a recent interview with James when asked about his inspiration for this project, he shared "I wanted to create a new project full of songs that represented where I am now as far as what I know about life, love and keeping it all fresh and new." When it comes to his improvisational grooves and style, James goes in deep within his consciousness to play from pure emotion while coming from pure soul that brings forth the artistry present in this project.

The Beat is consistent as a jazz project that embodies the essence of a mixture of genres that work to create a trendsetting contemporary sound with the foundation of contemporary jazz as its anchor. James redefines the definition of innovation as he digs beneath the surface to identify with the elements of storytelling via his mastery of the saxophone. Throughout the project, James shares a personal dialogue in song between himself and the listener as he recreates the emotion of falling in love, the beauty of being in love and other heartfelt life moments as told through his sensitivity and ability to sing through his saxophone. James is comfortable in opening up in complete artistic freedom as a passionate interpreter of music.
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