Bob James: Jazz Hands

Now in his 80s, the smooth-jazz master is still on the case in this set mixing jazz-funk, cinematic soundscapes and hip-hop jams


The statistics are impressive. Bob James is now 83 years old and celebrating seven long decades in the music business. The veteran Grammy-winning American pianist, composer and producer has released well over 30 albums, yet still manages to be a cutting-edge artist with relevance.

This 10-track album was mostly conceived and recorded during the Covid-19 pandemic, yet there is nothing about it that would suggest pessimism. The music ranges through jazz-funk, cinematic soundscapes, hip-hop jams and disco groove. As James says, “My life is music, and as long as I am able to play it, I’ll keep feeling young.” Thankfully, retirement does not seem to be on his radar yet.

Most people will have heard of James through his Grammy-winning track, Angela (Theme From Taxi) or through his smooth-jazz leaning quartet Fourplay. But he is much more than either of those achievements and is a talented jazz pianist in his own right. He absorbs musical influences like oxygen, and he rarely continues along the same path for very long.

Nor is he afraid to work with younger talent. On this album, former Gnarls Barkley singer CeeLo Green provides some magnificent vocals on the title track, whilst hip-hop DJ Jazzy Jeff provides production input in the stomping, bass-driven That Bop. Fans of Fourplay will not be disappointed either as there are a number of tracks that have that familiar DNA. Sea Goddess is the only non-studio track, having been recorded live on a Caribbean jazz cruise.

This one of James’s best albums for a long-time. It is refreshingly contemporary whilst being reassuringly familiar. His many fans will be delighted with this offering, whilst those who have never sampled his work will be in for a very pleasant surprise.

Mambalicous; The Otherside; Jazz Hands; Come Into My Dream; Beerbohm; The Alchemist; Mophead; That Bop; The Secret Drawer; Sea Goddess (50.00)
Collectively: James (p, kyb, syn); CeeLo Green (v); Dave Koz, Andrey Chmut, Tom Braxton (s); Ricky Peterson (Hammond B3, syn); Will Patrick, David Marchione, Dwight Sills (g); Michael Palazzolo, Nathan Philips (b); James Adkins, John Mahan, Jay Williams (d); Lenny Castro, Ramon Yslas (pc). Orlando, Hollywood, Atlanta, Traverse City and Wilmington, USA on diverse dates.
Evosound EVSA2537M