Bob James in 2019

Expresso from Bob James

While looking back 25 years at his Restless recording, it’s a great time to see what the legendary Bob James is doing this year. A look at his website shows him touring in support of last year’s Expresso recording. Expresso was the first Bob James solo recording in over a decade. It’s a trio record with bassist Michael Palazzolo and drummer Billy Kilson.

“I wanted to do this as part of a trio — piano, bass and drums, With Fourplay and in other larger settings, I loved that I could solo and then kind of disappear into the setting to accompany other soloists. To play in a trio requires a different level of commitment, with the piano being much more prominent. You need perhaps a greater degree of optimism and bravery. That was how I felt when I first got into music. Espresso is my attempt to recapture that.”

While there are several notable things about the release, fans of the earlier days of contemporary jazz will enjoy James’ sequel to his classic track “Nautilus.” Called “Submarine,” the connection to the original is immediately noticeable. Grover Washington, Jr.’s “Mister Magic” is also covered.

Restless by Bob James turns 25

Here’s a review I wrote of the Restless release by contemporary jazz legend Bob James in spring 1994. The album was released Feb. 8 of that year.

The review holds up, but after 25 years the track I listen to most is “Under Me” with its driving dance beat, sweet Luther Vandross vocal and Michael Brecker playing.

Bob James - Restless cover

After two albums with Fourplay, a reunion with Earl Klugh, and working on George Benson’s Love Remembers release, Bob James still has found time to put out a solo album. His new Restless is the first solo release since Grand Piano Canyon over four years ago. The title is reflective of how James is feeling. “I’ve been more than ever restless to explore new musical adventures and to interact with talented musicians who present new challenges,” James says.

James does run the gamut with ten songs of varying styles. The title track sounds like something from the Double Vision collaboration between him and David Sanborn in the mid-80’s. The saxophonist, newcomer Andy Snitzer, sounds almost identical to Sanborn. James also features two special vocals. One is a duet with his daughter, Hilary, entitled “Storm Warning.” James says the song is the “most deeply personal aspect of this album for me.” It is also a sneak preview of a project that the father-daughter team is releasing later this year. The other vocal, the upbeat “Under Me,” is possibly the most sensual song James has ever done. The vocals are handled by Luther Vandross, Lisa Fischer, and Hilary James. An other style featured more than once on Restless is straightforward jazz. “Back To Bali,” and “Into The Light” both feature Ron Carter on bass and James in a jazz mood. “Serenissima” features James accompanied only by Fareed Haque on guitar.

Restless was produced by Michael Colina, no stranger to the contemporary jazz scene. Colina brings out the best in James with the different styles. Saxophonist Michael Brecker plays on several cuts and Fourplay’s Nathan East and Harvey Mason both put in appearances. But it is definitely a Bob James record, with James composing nearly all of the tracks on the album.

Things I Know About Built to Last from the Rippingtons

Though it’s been a while since I considered myself a fan of the Rippingtons, I have always remained interested in the Russ Freeman project. Tourist in Paradise was my first love of contemporary jazz and you never forget your first love.

Built to Last is the new recording by the Rippingtons. Here’s what I’ve gathered about it:

  • It will be released on August 28.
  • It took 15 months to write and record.
  • The first single is “Cougars and Gigolos.”
  • The are 16 tracks on the recording, including four orchestral renditions and a classical guitar reprise of the title track.
  • Former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Zakk Wylde is featured on the track “Monument/Monolith.”
  • iTunes offers a “deluxe edition” with a bonus track and digital booklet.
  • Bill Mayer contributes yet another outstanding jazz cat illustration for the cover.
  • The range of music goes from “orchestrated, widescreen epics, to lyrical, smooth ballads, and high energy, progressive jazz-rock.”

Sources: Rippingtons official site, Amazon

8 from 1988 – Playlist Online!

Take a step into the past with these eight tracks from contemporary jazz releases that came out in the year 1988! Hear music from Kim Pensyl’s first series of sketches, Al Jarreau feeling so good, David Benoit taking every step along the way, and David Sanborn missing someone so far away. It’s one of a number of mixes I hope to be putting up on 8tracks in the future.

Click on the Play button in the lower left corner of the blown-up image below to listen right now!

Contemporary Jazz: How I Got Into It, Part 3

This is the third part of a three-part series reminiscing on how I got started with contemporary jazz 20 years ago and highlights since. Part one is here; part two here.

Eventually, I graduated from the University of Missouri but still stayed on as a volunteer announcer for KBIA for some time. I think at some point the evening contemporary jazz show was put to rest and I didn’t want to stay on for programming that didn’t interest me as much. It wasn’t long before I missed it. At the same time, I started learning this new way to make content for this thing called the World Wide Web. In 1995, I learned HTML, got a web host and created my first GIF. cJazz: The Contemporary Jazz Site was launched in January 1996. I recall it being one of the first 16 jazz sites indexed by Yahoo! (people added sites manually then; there was nothing like Google yet). I’ll never forget how I quickly received 15 email messages about the site and about half were outside the U.S. It really put the world in World Wide Web. I remember an email exchange with Rob Mounsey, getting a nice message from a doctor in Italy, and meeting Suzy Cline who was running a jazz hub called Jazz Stuff.

Most labels weren’t sure or unaware of the Web then but Randall Kennedy at Warner Bros. knew the deal. I think he had a WB Jazzspace site going earlier than other jazz labels. Michael Ricci launched AllAboutJazz.com, now the top jazz site on the Web. Larry Rosen, Dave Grusin, and Jon Diamond founded Jazz Central Station. Morrice Blackwell launched JazzReview.com, still a top jazz site to visit.

I spent five years building up ContemporaryJazz.com (I’d bought the domain name soon after the site launched). I worked on it almost every day for most of those years. Due to a major change in my life and some burnout, I sold the site in 2001. I later regretted that decision and was happy to be able to get the site back a couple of years ago. I won’t be giving it up again.