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Smooth Jazz Artist Directory


Boney James

Four-time GRAMMY nominee and multi-platinum selling sax-man Boney James continues his artistic evolution with the dynamic futuresoul. Fusing his love for vintage soul music with his mastery of modern production, Boney has created another genre-bending work following on the heels of his 2014 GRAMMY-nominated album The Beat.

�The forms I�m working with are rooted in my early influences,� says James, dropping names like King Curtis, the Stylistics and Earth, Wind & Fire. �But recently I�ve been listening to contemporary artists like Tinash�, Sam Smith and Ellie Goulding, and I�m inspired by the sound of their recordings. The production is so cool and evocative. As I started the new record, I was in my backyard studio messing around with this �gearhead� stuff I�ve collected. Ideas started flowing and it sounded like modern soul music to me. I thought to myself, �What is this?�� And then it hit me: �futuresoul.��

His 15th CD, futuresoul contains 10 original songs produced and written or co-written by James. Released by Concord Records May 4, 2015, futuresoul features vocalist and Mint Condition frontman Stokley on �Either Way,� a collaboration enabled by Twitter. Says James, �Like my recent duet with Raheem DeVaughn, I was able to meet Stokley on Twitter and send him the music for this track. He wrote the brilliant lyric and sent me a finished vocal all via email!� (International release dates may vary)

Also featured is rising-star trumpet player Marquis Hill (2014 winner of the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Trumpet Competition) on the plaintive �Far From Home.�

Other notable collabs on the record are title-cut �futuresoul,� co-written and co-produced by neo-soul mainstay Dwele, and �Drumline� and �Watchu Gon� Do About It?� with co-writer/co-producer Jairus Mozee (Anthony Hamilton, Robin Thicke).

futuresoul is the follow-up to The Beat (2013), nominated for the GRAMMY for Best Pop Instrumental Album, which prompted The New York Times to praise �The relaxed charisma of Mr. James� tone��

�Tone, or the �sound� of my horn, is really crucial to me,� says James. �I practice my saxophone in my backyard studio every day when I�m not on the road. I�m still dedicated to trying to be a better player. I spend much of my time with a keyboard next to me and a computer behind me,� he continues. �So when I get a creative idea, I�ll reach over to the keyboard and pick out a few notes or record myself singing a melody. I start gathering pieces. Then I�ll build on them and gradually they�ll turn into songs. I get more and more excited and start spending 14-hour days out there. Before I know it, I�ve made an album. It�s amazing how it happens � like a ball rolling down a hill, it develops its own momentum.�

Of course this process would not be possible if James weren�t so skilled with the production technology � he says he views digital production as an instrument in itself. He almost certainly could not have imagined such a thing when, at age eight, he picked up his first instrument: the clarinet. �I really wanted to play the trumpet, but when we went to the local music store, all they had were clarinets,� he explains. �I had to have something that day, so I took one home. The saxophone came up two years later because there were so many clarinet players in the band. My teacher kind of leaned on me to switch,� James laughs. �It was fate.�

The �analog� tone of the sax combined with the �digital� sounds of modern production contribute to the sonic tension that fuels futuresoul.

Boney says, �The track �Vinyl� really embodies the blending of retro and modern,� as it represents the first time he has sampled a classic record. �What you hear in the chorus,� he notes, �is a �filtered� piece of the Stylistics song �People Make the World Go Round.��

Born in Lowell, Mass. and raised in New Rochelle, NY, Boney became seriously interested in music in the mid �70s, a very vibrant and freewheeling period for popular music. �You could hear different genres all over the radio. Contemporary jazz was everywhere � people like Grover Washington Jr., Herbie Hancock and George Benson were stars,� he marvels. �Artists like Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind & Fire were incorporating jazz into what they were doing, and the jazz guys were mixing R&B into their sound. It was a great time to be a young musician.�

By 13, James � born James Oppenheim and nicknamed �Boney� in his mid-20�s when a meager touring per diem saw him growing thinner � was jamming in basements and garages. One summer during college, he found himself sitting in with some friends at a club. �Playing in a real club, with the energy of a real audience was such a fantastic rush,� he remembers. �That was the spark for my decision to become a professional musician.�

Following early pro gigs, (including sideman stints with Morris Day, the Isley Brothers, Randy Crawford and Teena Marie) James released his debut album as a leader, Trust, in 1992.

Over the following 23 years James has racked up sales of more than 3 million records, four RIAA gold albums, four GRAMMY nominations, a Soul Train Award, nominations for two NAACP Image Awards and 10 CD�s atop Billboard�s Contemporary Jazz Albums chart. In 2009 Billboard magazine named him the #3 Contemporary Jazz Artist Of The Decade (trailing just Kenny G and Norah Jones).

What�s in the future for futuresoul? Already making inroads at radio with the funky �Drumline� and the sultry �Either Way,� Boney will hit the road mid 2015 and continue touring throughout 2016.

James says, �When people ask me what category my music falls under, I always say, �It�s Boney James music�.�

Known for blurring the lines between genres, with futuresoul, Boney is doing the same between eras.

Let�s just call it �retro music for a modern age.�

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