By any stretch of recognition, Bob James is one of the most significant keyboardist in contemporary jazz. For more than 30 years, James has dotted the jazzscape with numerous albums that have had measured success along the lines of creativity. Discovered by Quincy Jones, James' music has dominated jazz charts in every country and he has influenced any number of artists along the way.
His latest CD entitled Urban Flamingo is another installment among many that has captured the musical imagination of jazz beginners and connoisseurs alike. Although Bob James has established himself as one of the finest keyboardists of his time, his association with the super group Fourplay has sometimes hampered his individuality in my opinion. Over the last 15 years, or since the formation of the group, the difference between the two has often been compromised by similarities. But with the release of Urban Flamingo, Bob has re-established himself as an individual. Might I add however, all of Bob's recordings have been exceptional in approach, but the dividing line has definitely been an issue for me in recent years.
Urban Flamingo continues a long-standing tradition of excellence. This time out, Bob attaches himself to his Michigan-based group consisting of drummer Ron Otis, saxophonist David McMurray, guitarist Perry Hughes and drummer Al Turner. James also adds the services of guitarist Earl Klugh, bassists Nathan East and James Genus, drummer Billy Kilson coupled with lead vocals offered by Bob's daughter, Hilary James.
In practically every case, there are ten tracks of muti-faceted styles of music, including blues, funk, jazz and R&B interpretive influences. As always, Bob James' grasp of contemporary jazz nuances has pushed him back to being his classic self. In many ways, Urban Flamingo is reminiscent of the albums heard during the 1980s, when it wasn't necessary to adhere to a smooth jazz approach for radio airplay.
This latest release is filled with some serious harmonies and groove directed melodies, as heard on the CD's title track. Of exceptional interest is the track entitled Endless Time, a song featuring the exceptional vocalese of Hilary James, who first appeared during the 1990s on Bob's album entitled Restless. Since that time, Hilary's overall technique has improved dramatically. She also appears on another track entitled Lay Down With You and as a background singer as well. In the whole scope of Urban Flamingo, his daughter's addition to the effort adds another dimension to his collaborative skills.
Of all the albums released by Bob James during the last 15 years, Urban Flamingo is by far one the most significant. As always, Bob is his usual creative self; however, on this release there is a much needed diffrentiation between Fourplay and James. With a cornucopia of talent at his disposal, Bob James does a masterful job of connecting the dots between the rudiments of contemporary jazz and stylized improvisation. Bob has always been brilliant in approach and creativity; however, some of his releases have been passe' over the years. But with Urban Flamingo, the gap between what was once heard compared to now has been greatly diminished. This CD is a great addition to any jazz collection.