Boney James is one of the few smooth-jazz artists who can sell more than 100,000 CDs, in no small part because he’s tapped into the magic formula of crossover appeal: providing soulful and sexy vocal tunes while not forgetting the fans who dig the instrumentals. On his first CD for Concord Records, the saxophonist offers five vocal tracks, even going so far as to lead the effort with a vocal tune, the title track featuring Canadian chillout artist Esthero. Hot R&B vocalist Faith Evans adds sass to “Gonna Get It,” and old-school veteran Philip Bailey adds class with “Love Song.” Finally, Dwele, who appeared on James’ CD Pure, essentially provides background vocals on the Dramatics’ memorable “In the Rain.”
There’s plenty for Boney’s instrumental fans to sink their teeth into with tunes such as “Breathe,” “Let It Go” and “The Total Experience,” the latter a typically laid-back Boney James jam with a keys solo by funkmeister George Duke, who is toned way down here. Guitarist and Concord labelmate George Benson adds some 1970s retro guitar and fast solos to “Hypnotic,” where James’ sax has never sounded so low and sexy in register. “The Way She Walks” features young New Orleans trumpeter Christian Scott, another artist signed to Concord. The song will certainly remind many of James’ fruitful collaboration with trumpeter Rick Braun on the 2000 CD Shake It Up. And Antonio Carlos Jobim’s bossa-nova standard “Aguas de Marco” would seem to have been a perfect fit for vocals in its original Portuguese—Bebel Gilberto maybe?—but James does just fine layering soprano and tenor saxophones.