Sax-man Boney James’ in-person demeanor is soft-spoken, humble and even a tad shy.
But for more than three decades, the multi-platinum artist has made (and continues to make) a very loud and proud impact on the jazz world, picking up four Grammy Award nominations along the way.
He is also a mover and a shaker onstage, rarely standing in one spot at any given time in his concerts, and even known to weave in and out his audience playing his saxophone. In other words: the man knows how to party.
So, it’s only fitting that he and R&B artist Jeffrey Osborne will join forces to ring in 2018 at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach, with plenty of music, dancing, décor and champagne. James said he will perform songs from his latest album “Honestly,” which debuted at number one of the Billboard Jazz and Contemporary Jazz charts in September, as well as songs from his 15 (yes, 15!) other records.
How do you feel you have developed in your music with your latest album “Honestly”?
I really do love the new record. It’s one of my best records and even though it’s my 16th record, it still feels really fresh to me. I was super proud of it when it came out and I was super pleased people were responding to it. I was working on it during the election and there was a lot of negative energy out there in the world, and music was making me feel really good, and I thought about how powerful music could be. It was such a positive energy, and I thought about how really great it would be for the record to stand for something positive in these sort of troubling times we are in now.
I was just grooving to your Christmas song “Sleigh Ride” that I saw you had posted on your Twitter. It’s so smooth!
Oh thank you (laughs). That was 20 years ago that I recorded that; I couldn’t believe it. It felt like just yesterday. That whole record’s pretty cool, I was pretty proud of it. It’s called “Boney’s Funky Christmas.”
I remember when we spoke last year about your 2015 album “FutureSoul,” you said you don’t necessarily identify yourself with any genre, but like to refer to your music as simply “Boney James music.” Have you experienced any particular challenges in the modern jazz world?
I think music in general is more and more challenging for artists these days. The whole infrastructure of delivering music to people and promoting music is so drastically curtailed in this new digital era we’re in. But in a lot of ways, it’s kind of like the Wild Wild West in that it frees you up I think in lots of ways to sort of follow your creative views. Plus people can find your stuff on the Internet and all of that other stuff. It’s just different with that infrastructure and without all those centralized record companies, you know, the way it was back in the day when I first started. So it’s kind of freeing and challenging at the same time. But my process hasn’t changed at all, you know. I still just write and create music and records and still go out and play shows and work as hard as I can to spread it to an audience. And luckily, at least in my world, not change too much.
I see that you are pretty active on your social media. Do you try to connect with younger generations?
I listen to current music and try to incorporate songs into my shows that I think are cool, or I try to blend different types of music into the music that I’m writing. It’s a fun challenge, and that’s always been my process is taking music that I hear or that I like and be inspired to try different things. That’s the fun part of it is making stuff. That’s how I see making new records is I’m sort of in my own little paint box making things, and I hear stuff that is modern or current and some of it is kind of cool or interesting. And other parts of it, I don’t like. So I add influences of what I like. And that’s always been the same, you know, going back to the 80s when I first started writing things. Music evolves, and I will keep evolving, and I just sort of hope that if I’m making music that is good (laughs) or fresh, or whatever interesting, is it’ll find a new audience.
So, what would you say is your all-time favorite sax solo on a rock album?
On a rock album? Oh wow (laughs). I’m terrible at picking favorites of things because there are so many things that I like, you know. Of course anything Clarence Clemons did with Bruce Springsteen was great. There’s a great and beautiful sax solo on a song by Springsteen called “Jungleland” that’s pretty amazing. I’d have to say that’s one of the greatest.
Now with the New Years concert, is there anything particular about this show that people are going to experience? Or is it just a straight-up Boney James concert?
I think it’s pretty much a Boney James concert. I mean, the show does have a lot of new elements since the new record came out. I am playing four songs off ‘Honestly’ and I also dug up some older songs that I’ve never played live. I’m also kind of wondering if it is too late to play Christmas music since it’s after Christmas. But people like to hear Christmas music on New Years still, right?
Yeah, I think that’s like the last day you can officially play or listen to holiday songs, so you can absolutely get away with it.
Alright (laughs) so it starts on the day after Thanksgiving and runs through New Years Eve. Maybe I will play some then. I may just stick to our newest show, but I guess you will have to come out and see. It is a really great show and I’m excited to bring it to Orange County because we haven’t played it down there yet.