Only a few of the so-called Smooth Jazz artists have survived over the years. Most certainly those who take chances to spread out a bit or try some edgier sounds. Saxophonist Boney James comes up with a new album and even though he is among those artists whose records from 10 or 15 years ago sound dramatically the same as today re: the phrasing of the sax, the production has certainly become more adventurous.
The album starts out with a summery “Drumline” with nice percussion work by Lenny Castro and continues with a softer “Vinyl” with more of those synth and drum programming that is always on the verge of getting too samey. More real instruments are offered on “A Little Attitude” which strolls along nicely. And the tempo goes down for the smooth ballad “Watchu Gon’ Do About It?” with some salacious vocals courtesy of Nikeita Crichlow. This belongs to the Urban AC market.
I like the voice of Stokley (of Mint Condition) who was featured on the last Maysa album as well. He co-wrote “Either Way” and shows once again that the better tracks on albums like these are very often those with a vocalist. There is one track here which doesn’t really do anything. There is really no spark and I was wondering when the song actually starts but it just burbles along (“Hand In Hand”). The same can be said about the downtempo “Fortuneteller” which is really missing some action. Most of the playing here is unagitated and innocuous.
Keyboardist Phil Davis co-wrote the more soulful “The Moment” which is in fact in the same subdued mood but here it works better with some added keyboard touches giving it a little more spice. Dwele co-wrote and co-produced the title track and also plays keyboards on the track which is another midtempo affair using some B3 organ by Tim Carmon to change the sound a bit. Another extra is added by trumpeter Marquis Hill on “Far From Home” but, again, this track is not really an attention-drawer since it is simply too creamy. I know that Boney is far better on stage than on disc.