Posts Tagged ‘ Bob James ’

Bob James and Nathan East – The New Cool

Play what you want! That could be the request to Bob James and Nathan East by Yamaha Entertainment Group label president Chris Gero. A studio full of Yamaha equipment and two legends to work with.

The New Cool shows an intimate duet between pianist Bob James and Nathan East on acoustic bass. Improvisation and melodic essentials are weighted equally. Oliver’s Bag helps the swing on the legs. Nathan’s acoustic bass is very present, you can hear the vibration of each string.

On All Will Be Revealed both play with different stylistic elements. Instrumentation, orchestral strings by the Nashville Recording Orchestra and Nathan’s celestial vocals are woven into a captivating whole.

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Bob James and Nathan East – The New Cool

TheNewCoolAlbums just aren’t made like the way The New Cool was made. Yamaha Entertainment Group label president Chris Gero put legendary keyboardist Bob James and master bassist Nathan East in the recording studio, equipped them with state-of-the-art Yamaha gear and gave them free reign to create. Recorded entirely in Nashville, the long-time collaborators emerged with an unexpected and audacious collection of original compositions plus a few handpicked classics, an acoustic jazz outing that will make you forget everything you thought you knew about these GRAMMY®-recognized artists best known as contemporary jazz luminaries. The disc produced by Gero, James and East will be released September 18.

The New Cool unfolds much in the way the meticulously-crafted project was conceived. The germ begins organically with a couple of intimate James and East duets. Pastoral piano wanderings explore the outer perimeter of straight-ahead jazz where they peruse, mirror and engage with meandering bass lines. In fact, more than half of the record’s compositions written by James and/or East are sparsely-produced, probing piano and bass sojourns. As the seed sprouts, dramatic orchestral accoutrements added by the Nashville Recording Orchestra illuminate the piano, keyboard and bass explorations, contributing hues that are warmly rustic and autumnal or whimsically vibrant.

James challenges with deftly inventive arrangements on complex pieces like “All Will Be Revealed” while East counts off supple rhythms that are astutely measured and metered. Fluid melodies and harmonies ranging from subtle, serene and meditative to lush, exquisite and cascading blossom throughout, whether emoted by a dexterous piano, keyboard or bass or East’s celestial vocalese. An imaginatively-arranged version of Willie Nelson’s “Crazy” bops and swings in sublimely surprising style before the ultimate surprise is revealed: a serendipitous vocal from Vince Gill. The proceedings flourish in a gust of breezy Brazilian jazz when percussionist Rafael Padilla and drummer Scott Williamson appear on “Canto Y La Danza” and climax in a crashing crescendo on the explosive and intricately orchestrated “Turbulence.”
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Too long a Fourplay? There’s no such thing! :)

After 20 years of Fourplay, maybe they felt we should move on…”, says Chuck Loeb in a jocular manner later that night, employing the pun on words in the band’s name when introducing one of the songs he contributed to Fourplay’s 12th album “Let’s Touch the Sky”. While the cover art suggests that very endeavor with the band member’s hands reaching up, nearly two hours of stellar live music performances left no doubt among avid music lovers who had flocked to Bayerischer Hof Night Club on this November, 8th 2011 night that Smooth Jazz’s famous supergroup are doing exactly that: They’re not only touching the sky, but weaving a musical skyscape with arrangements and solos that exude virtuosity, verve and vitality in equal parts.

Katharina Ehmki, CEO of Ehmki Music Management, promoter and press relations at the venue, landed the renowned music act as a major highlight of her New York at Bayerischer Hof series, and proved her experienced hand at knowing Jazz fans’ expectations: Fourplay packed the place to the last available seat and had every non-seated area crowded as well! Which might explain why fans had started to line up well before admittance at 8 pm, as Fourplay had sold out many venues prior to coming to Munich. I’ve been looking forward to this for quite some time and I was curious to see, what Chuck Loeb would sound like in this rarity of a group of musical heavyweights, where each of them is undoubtedly a leader in their own right, yet they appear to have kept ego out of the way and managed to amalgamate four strong musical personalities into a band – and with a formula that’s been going strong for the past two decades with only two changes to the line-up: Prior to Loeb, Larry Carlton held the guitar seat from 1998 through 2010, while Lee Ritenour was a founding member and stayed from 1991 through 1997.

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Sam McNally interviews Bob James

Pianist, composer, arranger, producer Bob James is a musician of enormous talent whose credits include Ron Carter, Hank Crawford, Eric Gale, Johnny Hammond, Freddie Hubbard, Hubert Laws, Stanley Turrentine, Grover Washington, Jr., Earl Klugh and Fourplay. He has recorded over 15 albums of his own and 4 with ‘Fourplay’ (also comprising Larry Carlton, Nathan East and Harvey Mason).

Notable awards include the 1996 Soul Train Awards “Jazz Album Of The Year”, ‘Cashbox’ “Jazz Artist Of The Year” and “Jazz Producer of the Decade”, Jazziz magazine’s “#1 Best Acoustic Pianist”, “#1 Best Jazz Composer”, “#2 Best Jazz Producer”, “#2 Best Electronic Keyboardist” and “#3 Best Overall Jazz Musician”. Sam McNally managed to interview Bob during his first Australian tour in November 2001.

SM: A great pleasure and an honour to meet you, it’s wonderful to see you here in Sydney.. and we met briefly in Tokyo in January!

I mentioned to you there that you were one of only a handful of powerful, formative influences on my piano playing style in the 70’s. Funny story: on January 21, I was crossing an intersection in Shinjuku, Tokyo and I noticed a guy who looked “quite like Bob James”. I so nearly said “you wouldn’t be Bob James would you?” but I backed off thinking “don’t be stupid, Bob James ain’t gonna be walking around Shinjuku”. Next day I spotted the same guy in the foyer of the Hilton, I enquired, it was you, we had a nice chat.

A very long and rich career, Bob. Just for the record, when did you begin and doing what?

BJ: I started piano lessons at the ripe old age of 4!

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Chris Mann interviews Bob James

CM – Bob let me start my saying that I’m a huge fan of your music ‘One on One’ got me hooked on your music in the late ‘70’s.

BJ – Well, thank you for listening for all that time

CM – And ‘Restless’ is one of the things I’d grab if my house were on fire. I bought it as soon as it came out and I’ve played it fairly relentlessly ever since.

I wanted to start out by asking you who your early influences were when you started playing.

BJ – I have always referred to three different people who I think it’s fair to call my biggest influences: Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans and Count Basie, all for different reasons.

I think probably Oscar Peterson was the one I discovered first back in high school and I use to listen relentlessly to his records and try to learn from them and one of things I discovered pretty quickly was that I’d never be able to have that kind of technique so that it didn’t really make too much sense to me to try to copy him because I knew I’d never be able to do it. And yet I learned a tremendous amount from his very powerful swing feeling.

Somewhat later on, I really became immersed in Bill Evans like probably almost every jazz pianist did. His voicings – even Oscar Peterson was influenced by Bill Evans in that way. So I learned even more and it was easy to fall into the pattern of trying to play like Bill Evans and maybe the only thing that saved me from that was when I discovered the Fender Rhodes maybe in the late 60’s/early 70’s and developed my own sound, it changed my touch and changed my approach to the piano. So that I could still admire and listen and love Bill Evans’ music but not feel like he was influencing me too much.

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A Conversation with Dave McMurray

Bob James toured with his quartet in October in Germany. The line-up was Bob James (piano and keyboards), Damon Warmack (bass), Ken Scott (drums), and Dave McMurray (Sax and flute). I had the opportunity to talk with Dave McMurray after the rehearsal.

HBH: Hello David!

DM: How you doing?

HBH: Fine. We’ve seen each other a long time ago in London.

DM: Oh yeah! (Laugh)

HBH: What did you do after this?

DM: Well, the last few years I’ve been playing a lot. I’m kind of juggling between three projects. I’ve been playing with Bob and I also with R & B artist KEM. I’ve been musical director for him for a few years. For the last two years I’ve been playing in a totally different situation with Kid Rock! (laugh) So, it pretty much started out as one show and then it went into two weeks, and then it turned into two years. I’m just finishing up, while he’s recording a new CD.

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