Boney James back on the road again

Published on October 23rd, 2021

By Jim Dail

It’s Boney time at Thornton Winery.

Jazzman Boney James, he of the sold-out shows, number one albums, and Grammy nominations, will perform Saturday, October 23, as part of the 2021 Champagne Jazz Concert Series. It will be his first trip since all of the issues with the lockdowns.

“I think it did drive me a little nuts,” said James. “I mean, I had a lot of free time to spend with my wife [actress Lily Mariye] but there was a little bit of stir crazy over time.”

Like some artists, he took advantage of technology with online shows.

“I did a lot of mini-concerts, but I wasn’t out there performing in front of the audiences in person,” he said.

While there were some positives to the situation, having seen James perform live, it is clear that the road was calling but was just not available.

“After a while it was like I was in a bubble, in a safe fort and needed to get back out there and be tested,” he said.

Finally, he got back on the road, beginning in Cabo.

“Yeah, that was not a bad place to do our first show,” he said. “It was pretty much like riding a bike, and there was a lot of energy from the crowd. I think people have just been dying to get back out there and go to concerts and get a feeling of normal life.”

It was some time ago when he was a kid in New Rochelle, N.Y. that he started to first play, but it was not a sax: It was the clarinet.

“I went to the store when I was a kid and was looking for a trumpet, but they didn’t have any because everyone else was playing them,” he said. “So, they had a clarinet and that’s how it started.”

But the opposite happened when he went to join the band at school: There were too many clarinets in the band, and they needed a sax player.

“I was the best clarinet player he said so he figured I would have an easier time learning it,” he said.

When he moved to Los Angeles, he found that the musical styles he loved in New York were happening on the West Coast too.
“I was into fusion and when I came to L.A., all the kids there were into the same thing,” he said. “It turned out to be a great move because L.A. was definitely the place to be a professional musician.”
James was able to create a niche as a sideman to such artists as Morris Day, the Isley Brothers, Sheena Easton and Bobby Caldwell.
“After a while I wanted to create my own music, not others,” he said.   

Last year, he released his 17th album, “Solid,” and like most of his records, it was a hit, as it became the 12th of his albums to top the Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart.

“I just got the urge to make a new record,” he said. “All these ideas were flowing, and music was coming out of it.”

The songs on “Solid” are rich and full of positivity, which was by design.

“There’s a lot of positive energy and it reminds me that things are still stressful, and we need an escape and that’s what music does,” said James.

The album title and title track are about his connections to everything in his life.

“I have a solid relationship with my music, so that’s kind of where it came from,” he said.

That could be why the album, in his words, came about “pretty quickly.”

“I create my music both by thinking up a melody or hitting a few riffs and building around them,” he said. “For this record, the songs came together pretty fast. Some of it was hearing my guitar player playing riffs at soundcheck, and sometimes it was just me sitting down at the keyboard and playing around.”

As such, the album features a variety of styles, but sticks to the Boney James sound.

“I’m always messing with new genres,” he said. “On this one I got a great new guitar player, Kendall Gilder.”

There are also vocals, provided by guest star Kenny Lattimore.

“It was sent to me [by Jairus Mozee] and it felt like a vocal song so I got Kenny Lattimore to do it,” he said. “If it doesn’t have the right feel as an instrumental, I turn to the vocals.”

Sometimes the vibe takes him to a different place, such as ”Luna” which features a Latin sound.

“That was just me recording a little melody and it just went that direction,” he said. “For all of the songs, I was trying to make sure that I could feel the melodies and the groove as the songs developed.”

Of course, it has been a year since it was released and the record company is knocking at his door again.

“Naturally, the record company wants another record,” he said. “But we have just started to tour with this record this year. I am lucky that they are behind my records, but I think we will play this one for a while.”

And play it he will, since one of his big joys is to be out on the stage.

“I think the crowds are remembering what it was like to go to a show and feel all that energy,” he said. “I am grateful that I have so many fans who want the records and want to see me live.”

IF YOU GO

Where: Thornton Winery, 32575 Rancho California Rd. Temecula

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, October 23

Admission: SOLD OUT

Information: Call 951-699-3021 or visit Website, www.thorntonwine.com

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