All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

306

Bob James Trio: Take It From the Top

By

Sign in to view read count
Bob James, one of the most popular jazz artists of all time, has over the course of the past 35 years elected to treat his older fans with an album of all acoustic songs from the Great American Songbook, tunes that are associated with jazz pianists who influenced him over the years. It seems that this happens about once every decade, or whenever Halley's Comet is expected.

The last occurence was in 1995 on Straight Up, with Christian McBride and Brian Blade. Although he started recording in the 1960s, it wasn't until he hooked up with CTI Records in the early '70s as a sideman (appearing on a multitude of sessions for the likes of Paul Desmond, Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan) and then by 1974 recording under his own name, that his fame began. By the end of the decade, James' albums became increasingly pop-jazz or fusion material, or as they would be known today, smooth jazz, under his own Tappan Zee label and a long term contract with Columbia Records. Among other projects, Bob James is now one quarter of the smooth jazz cooperative Fourplay.

The intent in this session was not to imitate jazz pianists but rather to find the appropriate groove that the original artists sought in these recordings. He succeeds in largely capturing the spirit of the respective pianists. "Billy Boy" is a tribute to the Miles Davis version from the late 1950s and James actually performs it the way that Red Garland, Miles' pianist, performed it in a trio format (while Miles was backstage having a smoke). In actuality, Miles borrowed his arrangement from the earlier performance of Ahmad Jamal. Later, James honors Jamal directly through his signatory version of "Poinciana," on which drummer Billy Kilson emulates Vernell Fournier's toms quite well.

Likewise, we have homages to Oscar Peterson for "Tenderly," Bill Evans' "Nardis," Mal Waldron's "Soul Eyes," and John Lewis' "Django." "Caravan" is done in the style of Erroll Garner and "Straighten Up and Fly Right" as a remembrance of the Nat King Cole trio days. Catching the spirit on the latter, I was a little annoyed that Kilson's stick work kept me from mentally completing the picture since there was no drummer on the historical recording.

Finally, in a bit of a stretch, Bob James seeks to honor classical composer/pianist Glenn Gould. Knowing that Gould was a fan of British singer Petula Clark, he elects to perform her biggest hit "Downtown" with a few classical glisses thrown in for good measure.

I hope that this album won't confuse the fans of Fourplay too much and if we can get one of these tracks on Top 40 charts, maybe we'll see more of Mr. James in this setting.


Track Listing: Billy Boy, Straighten Up and Fly Right, Downtown, Tenderly, Nardis, Poinciana, Caravan, Soul Eyes, Django.

Personnel: Bob James, piano; James Genus, bass; Billy Kilson, drums

Title: Take It From the Top | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: KOCH International Jazz

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Love & Peace CD/LP/Track Review
Love & Peace
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 20, 2018
Read La Saboteuse CD/LP/Track Review
La Saboteuse
by Chris May
Published: February 20, 2018
Read Memories of Maynard CD/LP/Track Review
Memories of Maynard
by Nicholas F. Mondello
Published: February 20, 2018
Read Cosmic Playground CD/LP/Track Review
Cosmic Playground
by Don Phipps
Published: February 20, 2018
Read For Gyumri CD/LP/Track Review
For Gyumri
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: February 19, 2018
Read Sextet (Parker) 1993 CD/LP/Track Review
Sextet (Parker) 1993
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 19, 2018
Read "Yequm" CD/LP/Track Review Yequm
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: October 24, 2017
Read "Collider" CD/LP/Track Review Collider
by John Sharpe
Published: February 28, 2017
Read "Scratches Of Spain" CD/LP/Track Review Scratches Of Spain
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 9, 2017
Read "Momentum" CD/LP/Track Review Momentum
by John Sharpe
Published: April 5, 2017
Read "A Big (Band) Swinging Christmas!" CD/LP/Track Review A Big (Band) Swinging Christmas!
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 25, 2017
Read "Outside The Comfort Zone" CD/LP/Track Review Outside The Comfort Zone
by Roger Farbey
Published: July 24, 2017