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.

December is Grover Washington, Jr. Month

Grover Washington, Jr.

To me, December is always Grover Washington, Jr. month. He was born in December and passed away in December. 

Grover is a contemporary jazz legend. He was a pioneer in the soul-jazz movement. I can hear his distinctive sound on any recording. There has been no one like him.

Let’s celebrate his legacy this month. Share your thoughts on Grover. Post a comment here about your favorite recordings, concert memories, etc. Or start this going on Twitter – #GroverWashingtonJrMonth. I’ll be sharing too through December 17, when he suddenly left us.

Happy birthday, Arturo Sandoval!

Happy birthday to one of my very favorite trumpeters, Arturo Sandoval (born in 1949)! 

His birthday falls on a very important election day in the U.S., the country where Sandoval has been a naturalized citizen for twenty years. He defected from Cuba in 1990. Learn about Sandoval’s flight to freedom from his site and the American Sabor site.

Here are three of my favorite pieces featuring the trumpet legend:

“Funky Cha Cha” – A blistering song with extra hot sauce from Michael Brecker

“Angelfire” – This cut from the Rippingtons’ Black Diamond release lets Arturo let loose a bit at the end. You can always count on the man to deliver. And it’s a good Russ Freeman composition and production, easily one of the best “cool fire” tracks in my library.

Leonid and Friends is a collective of Russian musicians who have been doing excellent covers of songs by the band Chicago. One of their latest is “Street Player” which features Arturo maybe sitting in his house, sitting down and still blowing out an incredible solo. He even hits an impossibly high note that I don’t think I’ve ever heard a trumpeter do before.