Let us groove into a H.G. Wells mode and ride a time machine back to 1979 and revisit One On One
(Tappan Zee), pianist Bob James' collaboration with guitarist Earl Klugh
. The disc won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. It was a polished production, full of catchy rhythms and bright, memorable melodiesmusic that was as widely engaging as it could be. Now turn that time machine's dial to fast forward and revisit 1990's Grand Piano Canyon
(Warner Records) and hear more of the same. Bob James hadand hasa vision, formed via his association with, in 1962, Quincy Jones
and then, in the 1970s, with Creed Taylor
and Taylor's CTI RecordsQuincy Jones and Creed Taylor, a couple of guys knew something about producing cool, beautiful sounds. James took that "cool, beautiful sounds" thing (categories be damned) and ran with it. Riding the time machine ahead to 2024, we find the veteran music maker in his early 80s, creating at the highest level of inspiration. His Jazz Hands
says he is better than ever.
This is the most eclectic album I've ever done," James says. "There's not really one specific genre, and there were a lot of different musicians involved..."
That said, the core of his group here is James on keys, along with Micheal Palessolo on drums and James Adkins on drums. Then, on selected numbers, throw in saxophonists Dave Koz
, Andrey Chmut and Tom Braxton
, then throw in Ricky Peterson on organ and synths, Will Patrick, David Marchione and Dwight Sills on guitar...and more. This type of musical chairs type of approach can, for all but the most experienced of top-notch artists, spell disaster, with the creation of a work of art lacking cohesion and a sustained mood. Fortunately, Bob James is the toppest
of the top-notch, boasting about sixty years of experience. Jazz Hands
is a triumph. Credit as strong an artistic vision as you would be likely to find.
The meticulously crafted sounds go down easy, from the opening with the percolating "Mambalicious," to the soft cinematic soundscape of a closer, "Sea Goddess," that serves as an achingly beautiful, save-the-best-for-last symphonic smooth-jazz jewel.
In between James experiments with funk, disco grooves and R & B (CeeLo Green's vocals on the title tune), hip hop and baroque-style classical harmony. "Beerbohm" is a lilting and playful nod to James' friend Quincy Jones.
Music, for Bob James, must serve as a fountain of youth, as he, in his 80s, creates an adventurous and engaging album that stands tall with his best.
Mambalicious; The Otherside; Jazz Hands; Come Into My Dream; Beerbohm; The Alchemist;
Mophead; That Bop; The Secret Drawer; Sea Goddess.
Bob James: acoustic piano and all keys; CeeLo Green: vocals (3); Dave Koz: saxophone;
Andrey Chmut: saxophone; Tom Braxton: saxophone; Will Patrick: guitar; David Marchione:
guitar; Dwight Sills: guitar; Nathan Philips: bass; John Mahan: drums; Jay Williams: drums;
Ramon Ysles: percussion
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