Thursday, November 15 at 8 p.m.
It’s been a full quarter-century since a young saxophonist and composer released his debut recording as a leader, Trust. Now, Boney James has released his 16th album, Honestly.
“I’m fighting the good fight to be my own artist and not be pigeonholed,” says the genre-blurring James. “With a record’s title I always try to find something that will communicate the feeling I get when I listen to it. The feeling I get with this music is a sense of sincerity and intimacy. The word ‘honestly’ really reflects how I aspire to live my life and create my music..”
The New York Times raved, “Boney James performs with panache...His arc as a soloist is emotional...he can paint a scene.”
Honestly, says James, is quite different sounding than the previous record, futuresoul, James’ 2015 release which spent eleven weeks at #1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart. “It’s more exposed,” he says of the 10-track collection. “Some of the arrangements are not as dense. A number of the songs have a more buoyant, cheerful, happy quality to them.”
Although each track on the album has its own definitive feel, James points directly toward some of his greatest influences as having provided inspiration. “I think about Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan and Earth, Wind & Fire,” he says, also mentioning such iconic R&B and contemporary jazz artists as the Brothers Johnson, Tower of Power and Grover Washington Jr. as having impacted him. “These are the bands that I grew up loving and the thing that they had was this method of arranging so the music is a character itself. That’s something I aspire to create on my records. The bass line can be a hook, or a horn line or keyboard riff that you sing in your head—that’s what I’m trying to create on the record. A tapestry of sounds that puts you in another world.”
His skill as a performer, as well as a recording artist, garnered this notice from the Boston Globe, “James swaggered across the stage like a blacktop hero draining treys on an overmatched opponent. He even weaved his way through the audience, never missing a beat and all but daring the crowd not to have a good time."
Over the years, James has racked up sales of more than three million records, four RIAA gold albums, four GRAMMY nominations, a Soul Train Award, nominations for two NAACP Image Awards and 10 CDs atop Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Albums chart. In 2009, Billboard named him one of the Top 3 Contemporary Jazz Artists Of The Decade along with Kenny G and Norah Jones.
Boney James is making some of the most stellar, wholly realized music of his career. “I’ve just grown up, personally and musically,” he says. “I’m a lot calmer now when I approach making music and have more confidence. I’m a “give-110 percent” kind of person and I’m enjoying the process more now. I think that comes out in the music. Maybe that’s why this new record is so much fun to listen to. There are parts on the record that still make me smile.”
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