This keyboardist was putting the "smooth" into "jazz" long before there was a format by that name. Since the mid-70s, Bob James has been one of instrumental music's most consistent purveyors of tunes that hover in the gray area between lighthearted pop and more sophisticated jazz textures. James' approach here is a little like his contribution to the supergroup Fourplay rather than dominate, he's content to jam and be one of the guys. Though his solos stand out, it's almost as if he's a hired gun on a project featuring the best and brightest of this second generation of smooth jazzers. He's farmed out the production tasks to some top studio guys (including musician/artists Paul Brown, Chuck Loeb, Michael Colina, and David McMurray. On the lively, shuffling "Take Me There," he bounces around joyously over Loeb's crisp guitar lines and Kim Waters' smart mix of soprano and alto saxes.
Keyboardist Bob James and acoustic guitarist Earl Klugh struck gold with this session, recently reissued on CD. The formula hasn't changed much in succeeding years. Both Klugh and James are capable musicians; they demonstrated on this collection of light, innocuous melodies and occasionally interesting backbeats a high degree of professionalism. Klugh is a first-rate guitarist whose solos are concise and nicely delivered, but frequently sound thin. James' piano and electric keyboard playing is a puzzling combination of flawlessness and lifelessness.
12 is of historic value because it introduced saxophonist Kirk Whalum, who was still a year away from debuting as a leader with 1985's Floppy Disk. One of the more noteworthy albums that Bob James came out with in the '80s, 12 finds him featuring the up-and-coming Whalum on three selections: the funky "No Pay, No Play," the pensive "Midnight" and Whalum's own "Ruby, Ruby, Ruby" (a slightly Spyro Gyra-ish number). While those selections are enjoyable, the strongest tune on the CD is James' haunting, Chick Corea-influenced "Legacy."
Hot on the heels of his commercial breakthrough Touchdown, which contained the monster hit "Angela (Theme from Taxi)," Bob James teamed up with acoustic guitarist Earl Klugh for the first of two hit duet albums. One on One is not strictly a duet side, however. The pair is accompanied by a band of crack studio types that includes James' former CTI mates acoustic bassist Ron Carter and drummer Harvey Mason and a host of others as well as string and woodwinds sections. The fare is light, breezy, and barely there in places. Out of these sessions came "The Afterglow," which lit up the charts right after "Angela" did, making James the hottest jazz commodity on the scene.
Bob James was putting the "smooth" into "jazz" long before it was an official format, and as an elder statesman, the keyboardist continues to be one of the most consistent slow groove crowd-pleasers around. But some of the most inspired moments of his career have come from key collaborations with peers from his generation like David Sanborn and Earl Klugh. While never straying far from the melodic, pleasant sort of cool he's best known for, on Playin' Hooky, James duets on various tunes with some of the new kids on the charts, from classical guitarist Fareed Haque to trumpeter Rick Braun and the increasingly ubiquitous saxman Boney James (no relation).
An entry within Metro Doubles series, One, Two, Three & BJ4: The Legendary Albums is a two-CD set containing Bob James' first four albums, presented in chronological order. The set is a good way to pick up these four James' discs – not only is it a convenient, concise way to get the records, but they're presented well with good liner notes, including track-by-track commentary by Chris Ingham.
Bob James' recordings have practically defined pop/jazz and crossover during the past few decades. Very influenced by pop and movie music, James has often featured R&B-ish soloists (most notably Grover Washington, Jr.) who add a jazz touch to what is essentially an instrumental pop set. He actually started out in music going in a much different direction. In 1962, James recorded a bop-ish trio set for Mercury, and three years later his album for ESP was quite avant-garde, with electronic tapes used for effects.
Heads is the fifth album by jazz musician Bob James. It was his first album released on his newly formed Tappan Zee label, which was distributed at the time by Columbia Records.
For his ninth contemporary jazz release, Bob James brings in the multitalented Rod Temperton, and an all-star vocal cast including Patti Austin, Lani Groves, Major Holley, Luther Vandross, and many others for what only can be described as pure musical magic. The macabre "Hypnotique" with its unintelligible vocals is the ultimate "daytime nightmare". The tempo picks up on the funky "The Steamin' Feeling". We are transported to magical lands with the dreamy "Enchanted Forest". Spyro Gyra frontman Jay Beckenstein shows his stuff on "Unicorn". Bob shows amazing dexterity on both the acoustic piano and Oberheim polyphonic synth. The title song features the vocal cast, as well as some interesting sound effects by Tabby Andriello.