During the past few years, veteran keyboardist Bob James has surely displayed a variety of musical styles and his prowess on the 88s. He’s offered the mellow-smooth of his band Fourplay, the groove-smooth of his solo albums and the traditional jazz-smooth of the Bob James Trio. His new, oddly named solo project falls somewhere in between the latter two styles.
Unlike the picture-perfect smooth jazz of Joy Ride and Morning, Noon & Night, Urban Flamingo gets a little nasty with its solos and jam-band eccentricities.
James, who recently moved to his old stomping grounds in northern Michigan, called on Great Lakes-based friends and musicians for the funk: bassist Al Turner, drummer Ron Otis, guitarist Perry Hughes and saxophonist Dave McMurray. Call this fearsome foursome the anti-Fourplay. That said, there are plenty of James’ Fourplay-like soft, acoustic piano interludes, which are supremely displayed on the sublime “Niles Ahead.”
Fourplay bassist Nathan East drops by to pluck some bass lines and sing on the sappy “Endless Time.” That song and the quiet storm “Lay Down With You,” written and performed by James’ vocalist daughter Hilary James, are out of place on a swinging CD of blues, rock and jazz—a true contemporary-jazz fusion project from an American original.