BOB JAMES and DAVID SANBORN, QUARTETTE HUMAINE


In 2013 pianist/keyboardist Bob James and alto saxophonist David Sanborn are likely to be considered contemporary jazz royalty since their respective careers helped usher in the smooth jazz trend. James has fashioned an exceptional career as solo artist, producer (Paul Simon, Kenny Loggins) and mentor (Kirk Whalum) and currently gets his groove on making music as part of the remarkably durable smooth jazz super group, Fourplay. Sanborn has released 24 albums of his own and won six Grammy® Awards, one of which was the huge selling collaboration with James, the slick and soulful Double Vision (1986, Warner Bros.) that also featured star turns by Al Jarreau and Marcus Miller (“Maputo.”)

Fast forward to present day and the re-animated Okeh label (via Sony Masterworks,) which took the opportunity to reunite James and Sanborn, inviting them to rekindle the fire that burned so brightly back in the day. To their credit they didn’t take the easy route and instead, defy all expectations with Quartette Humaine, an all-acoustic program featuring Double Vision’s original drummer, the illustrious Steve Gadd, and bassist James Genus.

Can two smooth jazz veterans make challenging, gutsy music together? Absolutely, yes, and right from the start of James’ delightful “You Better Not Go To College,” you know this won’t be a nostalgic retread. James and Sanborn achieve a live, in-studio sound – polished, for sure – but the original tracks, four by James and three by Sanborn, leave the door open for atonalities and a few knots (Sanborn performs much further “outside” than what you’re accustomed to hearing; his sound tart and pitched.) James’ uncanny ability for memorable songwriting makes tunes like “Montezuma,” the classical tinged “Follow Me” and “Deep In The Weeds” swing with straight-ahead heft. The quartet injects “Geste Humain” by French singer/songwriter Alice Soyer with a mysterious, poetic beauty. And it’s especially great to hear Gadd again in context with these musicians. Genus, who has collaborated with James on his other acoustic projects, lays down bass lines with polished efficiency, at once soulful and grounding.

Produced in part as a tribute to Dave Brubeck and with the spirit of Paul Desmond floating above, it sounds as if James and Sanborn finally got a chance to make a record their way, and its success rests squarely on the superb four-way dynamic the quartet affectionately shares. (9 tracks; 54 minutes)

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JAZZ IN SPACE: BOB JAMES and DAVID SANBORN, QUARTETTE HUMAINE

Sunday, June 2, 2013

BOB JAMES and DAVID SANBORN, QUARTETTE HUMAINE


In 2013 pianist/keyboardist Bob James and alto saxophonist David Sanborn are likely to be considered contemporary jazz royalty since their respective careers helped usher in the smooth jazz trend. James has fashioned an exceptional career as solo artist, producer (Paul Simon, Kenny Loggins) and mentor (Kirk Whalum) and currently gets his groove on making music as part of the remarkably durable smooth jazz super group, Fourplay. Sanborn has released 24 albums of his own and won six Grammy® Awards, one of which was the huge selling collaboration with James, the slick and soulful Double Vision (1986, Warner Bros.) that also featured star turns by Al Jarreau and Marcus Miller (“Maputo.”)

Fast forward to present day and the re-animated Okeh label (via Sony Masterworks,) which took the opportunity to reunite James and Sanborn, inviting them to rekindle the fire that burned so brightly back in the day. To their credit they didn’t take the easy route and instead, defy all expectations with Quartette Humaine, an all-acoustic program featuring Double Vision’s original drummer, the illustrious Steve Gadd, and bassist James Genus.

Can two smooth jazz veterans make challenging, gutsy music together? Absolutely, yes, and right from the start of James’ delightful “You Better Not Go To College,” you know this won’t be a nostalgic retread. James and Sanborn achieve a live, in-studio sound – polished, for sure – but the original tracks, four by James and three by Sanborn, leave the door open for atonalities and a few knots (Sanborn performs much further “outside” than what you’re accustomed to hearing; his sound tart and pitched.) James’ uncanny ability for memorable songwriting makes tunes like “Montezuma,” the classical tinged “Follow Me” and “Deep In The Weeds” swing with straight-ahead heft. The quartet injects “Geste Humain” by French singer/songwriter Alice Soyer with a mysterious, poetic beauty. And it’s especially great to hear Gadd again in context with these musicians. Genus, who has collaborated with James on his other acoustic projects, lays down bass lines with polished efficiency, at once soulful and grounding.

Produced in part as a tribute to Dave Brubeck and with the spirit of Paul Desmond floating above, it sounds as if James and Sanborn finally got a chance to make a record their way, and its success rests squarely on the superb four-way dynamic the quartet affectionately shares. (9 tracks; 54 minutes)

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