Boney James - Honestly (2017)

Boney James
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Over the course of a career that began more than a quarter of a century ago, Boney James' sound has evolved into one that fused instrumental and vocal R&B with jazz improvisation, making him an artist who has popular acclaim through multiple top selling albums and critical success of multiple Grammy nominations.

James jumped into the game with his 1991 release Trust, which featured a smooth jazz cover of “Creepin’,” the R&B cut written by Stevie Wonder and covered most famously by Luther Vandross, and several mid-tempo saxophone driven originals. However, the album also included numbers that leaned in the direction of the kind of funk and R&B driven material that would become James’ trademarks on future records, including his latest, Honestly.

Over the course of a career that began more than a quarter of a century ago, Boney James' sound has evolved into one that fused instrumental and vocal R&B with jazz improvisation, making him an artist who has popular acclaim through multiple top selling albums and critical success of multiple Grammy nominations.

James jumped into the game with his 1991 release Trust, which featured a smooth jazz cover of “Creepin’,” the R&B cut written by Stevie Wonder and covered most famously by Luther Vandross, and several mid-tempo saxophone driven originals. However, the album also included numbers that leaned in the direction of the kind of funk and R&B driven material that would become James’ trademarks on future records, including his latest, Honestly.

James adeptness, moving between laid back sax jazz that possessed the archetypical smooth jazz swing and the more rhythmic and funky stuff that often only a vocal away from being R&B radio ready, made him the ideal collaborator for R&B vocalists, and singers such as Stokely, Raheem DeVaughn, The Floacist, and Jahiem.

James continues that trend to good effect on Honestly by linking up with independent soul royalty in the names of Eric Roberson and Avery*Sunshine. Both singers score with strong ballads – Erro engages in a pensive conversation with James’ mournful sax and an acoustic guitar as he burns the torch for a lost on “If I Can’t Hold You,” while Avery*Sunshine adopts a conversational tone on the title track, as she asks her lover to focus on the present that they have rather than a future on which they can only speculate.

The balance of the album features instrumental originals, except for the intimate sax and piano interpretation of the Great American Songbook tune, “Skylark.” The remake is a departure from the instrumental originals on the album, which all possess funky buoyancy around which he can layer his imaginative solos. That is the case with the percussive funk of “Up All Night,” or the hip-hop inspired bass line meets jazz-soul keyboard play on grinding funk of “On The Prowl.”

James shows that he can take us back to the late 70s/early 80s on the throwback jam (complete with handclaps) “We Came to Party,” and that he hasn’t forgotten how to make the classic smooth jazz song for a summer drive with the bouncy “Kicks.”

Part of James' winning formula stems from the fact that he is never formulaic. His 2015 record Futuresoul also included tracks featuring R&B singers, but stylistically that project is distinct. Futuresoul was suited for that intimate evening, while Honestly provides the soundtrack for that drive to the spot, cuts for the dance floor, conversation and yes that private moment for two. Sounds like Boney James was trying to create a little something for everybody, and he pulls it off. Strongly Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

Click Here to listen to Honestly

 
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