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.

2004 Grammy Nominees

There are no real surprises in the list of jazz Grammy nominees for 2004. For Best Contemporary Jazz Album, you’ve got the usual suspects of Yellowjackets, David Sanborn, and Randy Brecker. The reunited Crusaders pick up a nomination as does Nicholas Payton’s fusion recording Sonic Trance. Another “trumpeter gone wild” this year – Roy Hargrove – picked up a nod for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals for the RH Factor song “I’ll Stay” featuring D’Angelo. Among his competitors in that category is Stanley Clarke with Glenn Lewis and Amel Larrieux for “Where Is the Love” from 1, 2, to the Bass. In the “what the hell?!” category, Pat Metheny’s One Quiet Night CD is nominated for Best New Age Album (but that means someone else will win Best Jazz Album).

The Grand Unification Theory by Stefon Harris gets a deserved nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group. Also up for the Grammy in that category are Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Pat Martino, and, most likely to win, Wayne Shorter. Shorter’s “Sacajawea” is a candidate for Best Instrumental Composition, as is Michael Brecker’s “Broadband” from his thrice-nominated release Wide Angles.

Visit the Grammy site for a complete list of Grammy nominations. The awards will be presented on February 8 and be broadcast on CBS.