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One can only hope that this title is a reference to a leave of absence from the dreadful Fourplay. Bob James does what he does best (and worst) on Playin' Hooky. There's good stuff here like the Bach-to-the-fusion of "Playing With Fire" (featuring Dave Samuels on vibes and Fareed Haque on guitar), nice acoustic piano work on two exceptionally good numbers ("Organza" and "Glass Hearts") and the Fender Rhodes maestro's return to the electric instrument on three undercooked pieces ("Mind Games," "Do It Again" and Love Is Where").
Unfortunately, the quiet storm rolls in here and there, most often embodied by hack-supreme Boney James, who's featured on three tremendously annoying songs ("Mind Games," "Hook Line and Sinker," "Night Sky").
Playin' Hooky isn't as inventive or memorable as James' old Tappan Zee records of the seventies. But when he's not playin' hokey, Playin' Hooky makes for occasionally nice listening.
Track Listing: Playing With Fire; Mind Games; The River Returns; Organza; Hook, Line & Sinker; Glass Hearts; Night Sky; Do It Again; Love Is Where; Are You Ready.
Personnel: Bob James; keyboards; Boney James: tenor sax; Rick Braun: trumpet, flugelhorn; Fareed Haque: guitar; Chuck Loeb, Nick Moroch: electric guitar; James Genus, Chris Walker, Nathan East: bass; Billy Kilson, Steve Gadd: drums; Dave Samuels: vibes; Cyro Baptista, Emedin Rivera, Lenny Castro: percussion; Andy Snitzer, Michael Davis, James Hynes, Jeffrey Kievel, Tom Tinko, Randy Andos: Snitzer Howling Horns; Chris Walker, Hilary James, Kevin DiSimone: voices; Rasheeda: vocals; Bob James, Ken Freeman, Paul Brown, Jeff Carruthers, Michael Colina, Marcel East, Max Risenhoover: programming.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.