My musical easy button…Having grown up listening to both Bob James and David Sanborn, I can say without hesitation that I may be a tad biased but when you are lucky enough to have your musical horizons broadened thanks to the ever evolving talent of Bob James then life is indeed good. Earlier this year Bob James was kind enough to field some questions for this site and with that came the best reminder a critic or a musician could ever hope for…Always be open to new ideas and new ways for expressing your artistic voice.
Aside from the equally talented David Sanborn, the addition of James Genus on bass is nothing short of a stroke of pure musical genius. Genus quietly goes about his craft with the precision and flair that make some draw comparisons to Christian McBride. While artistic comparisons are inherently unfair to all parties it is safe to say that James Genus is on equal footing with any acoustic bassist and paired with legendary drummer Steve Gadd (Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Steely Dan and Chick Corea) you have a formidable rhythm section with unlimited musicality and the perfect harmonic base from which James & Sanborn can work without a net.
The conceptual basis for this stellar offering is two fold. Bob James has the same innate gift that the great Dave Brubeck has for establishing an emotional connectivity with the audience and musicians involved in this session while David Sanborn assumes the Paul Desmond role while channelling his inner Hank Crawford and David “Fathead Newman” for that lyrical intensity that inspired the young Sanborn while growing up in St. Louis. Quartette Humaine is the first full fledged reunion since the 1986 platinum selling, Grammy Award winning release, Double Vision.
James & Sanborn contribute seven original compositions out of the nine tunes listed with two covers arranged by James. A review in the traditional sense does not seem to work here. For those with more contemporary tastes consider this the acoustic flip side to Double Vision. If the straight ahead vibe is your wheelhouse then you may be hard pressed to find a better recording this year.
Bob James & David Sanborn’s Quartette Humaine is a celebration of great American music from two of the most influential figures across any genre of the music business today.
Perfection on a shiny silver disc.
Bob James: piano
David Sanborn: alto and soprano, sopranino saxophones
Steve Gadd: drums
James Genus: bass
Javier Diaz: percussion on “Deep In The Weeds”
Look for Bob James and David Sanborn to be touring across the United States this summer with dates including the Playboy Jazz Festival on June 16th in Los Angeles and the Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland on July 16th.
The formidable contemporary jazz quartet Fourplay set it off at Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis on Friday night.
Closing in on 25 years together, the super group featured pianist Bob James, veteran session bassist Nathan East (Eric Clapton, Barry White, Phil Collins), drummer Harvey Mason (Herbie Hancock, Barbra Streisand, Notorious B.I.G.), and guitarist Chuck Loeb (Stan Getz, Chico Hamilton, Ray Barreto).
“All four of us have been in this business long enough to know that there’s always pressure to compromise, and we don’t want to do that,” says James of the group’s current lineup. “We don’t want to end up in the middle of the pack. We always aim to be leaders, and take the music to another level and raise the standards higher.”
For me, there is no better way to celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month than to enjoy a Fourplay concert. We are talking about four remarkable musicians on one stage for a night of smooth jazz who can literally take your breath away. As noted for their individual jazz accomplishments as they are as a group, the four collaborate to create a sound superbly crafted and soothing to the soul.
The Birchmere Music Hall in Alexandria, VA, knows well how to seduce and prepare an audience. Sporting tantalizing entrees and appetizers before the show, there was approving chatter all through the hall. On the stage was all of the dazzling equipment that the contemporary jazz legends have mastered, just waiting to fascinate the excited audience. The hall was filled to capacity as the band approached a rousing round of applause. Up came the spotlight, and it was on and popping. Let’s just say this band has redefined the meaning of synchronization. Read further, and, hopefully, you too will be in a state of awe.
It was 8:00 pm, and the band set off a sizzling tune from the Esprit De Four album titled “December Dreams” to start the jam session. Gracing the stage from left to right were renowned keyboardist Bob James, phenomenal bassist/vocalist Nathan East, the nimble-fingered veteran guitarist (who’d made quite a name for himself even before joining this dynamic band) Chuck Loeb, and the exciting, renowned drummer Harvey Mason.
James then kicked off the popular up-tempo jam “Max-O-Man” from the band’s self-titled release. The tune was highlighted by Loeb’s expertly fluid guitar licks.
Next up, East began another super-popular track, “Chant,” from their 1993 Between the Sheets album — again featuring Loeb’s crisp guitar and spotlighting Mason for a drum solo for the ages. This time, each member graciously introduced the other. From 2010’s Let’s Touch the Sky, “Gentle Giant,” a heartfelt tribute to the late Hank Jones, featured James and East (the latter playing upright bass) was most memorable.
Undoubtedly the best!
The track “Sonny Moon,” also from the Esprit De Four album displayed the artistry of James and East as they grooved back and forth. These guys had the audience’s undivided attention and ultimately earned them a standing ovation.
The funky up-tempo “101 Eastbound,” also from the self-titled release, had all the capacity crowd bouncing in their seats. Loeb’s guitar was flawless as he stroked the strings and pressed pedals that emitted everything he must have been feeling. Mason was holding that steady groove as Loeb satisfied the audience in a rock star-like wide-legged stance note for note. Awesome!
East was super hot on the vocals as he crooned the blues melody of “All I Wanna Do,” also from theEsprit De Four album. This was the time to hold your significant other affectionately close. Somehow, smooth jazz just does that.
“3rd Degree,” from the Let’s Touch The Skyalbum, mesmerized the audience again as Loeb rocked the guitar, while East and James played off each other seamlessly. This time, Mason’s riveting drum solo was the highlight. Holding the steady beat at first, then exploding into a high-hat frenzy, he commanded attention as he dropped the funk on the listeners.
On the silky mellow tune “Bali Bun” from the self-titled release, James ran his fingers over the ivories again while East laid it down on the upright bass. The standing ovation was well-deserved.
As the foursome strode offstage at the end of their set, the audience asked for an encore, and the gentlemen obliged. Showcasing their chemistry, the band swayed the audience with “More Than a Dream” from the Let’s Touch The Sky album. All four played for us what, for me, was one of the best encore presentations ever.
“Westchester Lady,” from their Heartfelt release featured the band playing this track with the spotlight moving from one soloist to the other, from left to right and back again. Starting at a slow pace, the groove started with James, to East, to Loeb, and to Mason. They steadily increased the song’s tempo to where all heads followed the spotlight on each artist from left to right rapidly, totally fascinating the audience. Never missing a note, the entire track flowed perfectly. Precision and entertainment at its best. This is the same band, never one to bore an audience, that mesmerized fans everywhere with their “freeze” move several years ago where it would simply freeze in mid-song (the tune was “Blues Force” from their Yes Please release, I’m sure) for what felt like a good 4-5 minutes, driving audiences wild, only to come back right where they left off!. Now, I strongly suspect that the spotlight play is the new attraction. Was it ever impactful!
Yes, we want more!
The DC/MD/VA was certainly granted what can arguably be the smooth jazz concert of the year. If one should question how four great jazz artists can create such a masterful and entertaining performance, just look at and listen to this ensemble. Chatter around the hall after the show described these cats as supernatural. As our own TSJR chief put it: “That is simply ‘crazy’ talent!”
As it took its final bow for the night, the band proved once again that their iron-clad legacy still withstands the test of time. Fourplay—the band of bands. – Mike Sutton
Photos by Dwynn Barr
It’s the first collaboration between James & Sanborn since their 1986 Platinum-Selling, GRAMMY® Award-Winning Album, Double Vision, and features bassist James Genus & drummer Steve Gadd on the all-acoustic project.
OKeh released keyboardist-composer-arranger Bob James and alto saxophonist David Sanborn’s new album, Quartette Humaine, on May 21, 2013. The project is the first collaboration between the two musicians since their 1986 Platinum-selling, GRAMMY® Award-winning album, Double Vision. An all-acoustic quartet offering, Quartette Humaine pays tribute to the late iconic pianist-composer Dave Brubeck, putting a prime spotlight on his work that featured alto saxophonist Paul Desmond.
“David and I realized long ago that Double Vision had become more successful than we originally imagined it could be,” James says. “Ironically, although we’ve met in the studio, doing other people’s projects, we’ve never toured, or performed together live as a band. The exception was a midnight jam session at the Tokyo Jazz Festival a few years ago. We played just a couple of tunes, but it engendered the feeling that a reunion was way overdue.”
Quartette Humaine – Tracklisting:
1. You Better Not Go to College (Bob James)
2. Geste Humain (Alice Soyer)
3. Sofia (David Sanborn)
4. Follow Me (Bob James)
5. My Old Flame (Arthur Johnston, Sam Coslow)
6. Another Time, Another Place (David Sanborn)
7. Montezuma (Bob James)
8. Genevieve (David Sanborn)
9. Deep in the Weeds (Bob James)
On their second go-round, the old masters eschew the pop and R&B production values that mark large chunks of their respective discographies, and offer instead an all-acoustic quartet recital consisting of four new compositions by James, three pieces by Sanborn, and two James-arranged covers (“My Old Flame,” “Geste Humain”). Propelled by legendary drummer Steve Gadd and 21st century bass giant James Genus, the proceedings are reflective, swinging, chock-a-block with unfailingly melodic improvising and beautiful tonalities.
“At this stage of my life, I wanted more than anything to play music that’s challenging and fun, outside the style we’ve been associated with,” Sanborn says. “For various reasons, a lot of my records only reflected one side of the many kinds of music I was doing.” Over the past decade, Sanborn adds, his records “reflect a side of my sensibility that I hadn’t been expressing as much, paying respects to guys like Hank Crawford and David ‘Fathead’ Newman, who inspired me to start when I was a teenager in St. Louis.”
“We felt it’s far more exciting and adventurous to move forward,” James says. “Times have changed. The music business has changed. We have changed.”
It’s a poignant coincidence that the recording sessions occurred in December 2012, a week after the death of Dave Brubeck, who the protagonists were thinking of as they gestated Quartette Humaine. “We talked about the interplay of Brubeck’s quartet with Paul Desmond,” Sanborn says. Coming from that, I assumed we’d make a quartet date. I like being able to really hear all the individual instruments. We had this beautiful 9-foot grand piano, and you can hear its sound ring out. You get more sonic purity without all those other elements.”
Indeed, both the tunes and treatments channel Brubeck’s gift for creating communicative music from highbrow raw materials. “Dave has a similar capability to Paul Desmond—though in a different way—in that the lyric quality of the way they play takes it into an emotional-romantic concept rather than an intellectual one,” James says of Sanborn. “I felt—and I still do when I listen to the Brubeck quartet—that they were taking us on an adventure, and some of the adventure was challenging. Just when you thought you knew where you were going, they’d go somewhere different.”
It’s this adventurous, “in-the-moment” spirit that fuels Sanborn and James on Quartette Humaine. “It’s so much fun to do it this way,” Sanborn reflects. “I used to separate live playing from being in the studio, and got into a mindset of having to labor over a record and make it right. I want the studio to reflect that live experience—the fun of discovery, not knowing what’s going to happen until it happens.”
Upcoming Bob James & David Sanborn Appearances
June 6 / Town Hall / New York, NY
June 8 / Fraze Pavillon/ Kettering, OH
June 9 / Capital Jazz Fest / Columbia, MD
June 14 / Rotary Amphitheatre / Fresno, CA
June 15 / Thornton Winery / Temecula, CA
June 16 / Playboy Jazz Festival/ Los Angeles, CA
June 17 / SFJAZZ Center / San Francisco, CA
June 19 / Schermerhorn Symphony Center / Nashville, TN
June 20 / Jazziz Night Life / Boca Raton, FL
June 21/ Plaza Live / Orlando, FL
June 22 / Palladium Theater / St. Petersburg, FL
June 24 / Ottawa Jazz Fest /Ottawa, ON
June 25 / Toronto Jazz Fest / Toronto, CA
June 26 / Chene Park / Detroit, MI
June 27 / Rochester Jazz Fest / Rochester, NY
June 28 / Keswick Theatre/ Glenside, PA
June 29 / Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Fest / Saratoga, NY
June 30 / Hampton Jazz Fest / Hampton, VA
July 9 / Istanbul Jazz Festival / Istanbul, Turkey
July 12 / North Sea Jazz Festival / Rotterdam, Netherlands
July 16 / Montreux Jazz Fest / Montreux, Switzerland
July 20 / TBA / St. Moritz, Switzerland
July 21 / Montreux Jazz Fest / Montreux, Switzerland
August 7 / TBA / Haugesund, Norway
August 23 / Back Bay Amphitheater / Newport Beach, CA
August 24 / Mountain View Plaza / Snoqualmie, WA
August 25 / Esther Short Park / Vancouver, WA
September 4 – 5 / Blue Note / Tokyo, Japan
September 9 / Tokyo Jazz Festival / Tokyo, Japan
October 24 / St. Cecilia Music Center / Grand Rapids, MI
October 25 / Manchester’s Craftsman’s Guild / Pittsburgh, PA
October 27 / The State Theater / New Brunswick, NJ
October 31 / TBA / Zurich, Switzerland
November 3 / TBA / Salzburg, Austria
November 5 / TBA / Lugano, Switzerland
November 8 / TBA / Vienna, Austria
November 9 / TBA / Horsens, Denmark
November 14 / Leverkusan Jazz Fest / Leverkusan, GE
About Bob James
Discovered by Quincy Jones at the Notre Dame Jazz Festival in 1963, Bob James recorded his first solo album, Bold Conceptions, that year for Mercury Records. 58 albums and innumerable awards would follow through five decades. He honed his skills working with Creed Taylor, working on albums for artists like Hank Crawford, Grover Washington, Jr., among others. While with CTI, James found great popular success overseeing significant hits for Paul Simon, Neil Diamond, Maynard Ferguson, and Kenny Loggins. Additionally, James is a founding and current member of Fourplay, the distinguished contemporary jazz quartet. For more information on Bob James, please visit: bobjames.com
About David Sanborn
Saxophonist David Sanborn has released 24 albums, won six GRAMMY® Awards, and has had eight Gold albums and one Platinum album. Having inspired countless other musicians, Sanborn has worked in many genres that typically blend instrumental pop, R&B and lately, more and more traditional jazz. For more information on David Sanborn, please visit: davidsanborn.com