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Boney James

One of the most popular saxophonists in the “smooth” and urban jazz arena, Boney James was born James Oppenheim in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1961 and grew up in New Rochelle, New York. James studied clarinet at eight, switching to saxophone two years later. He was 15 when his family moved to Los Angeles. Shortly after, James was playing in the fusion band Line One and had opportunities with the group to open for Flora Purim and Yellowjackets. He attended Berkeley for a year but transferred to UCLA so he could continue playing with Line One. He earned a degree in history but never really used it because he became a fulltime musician right after graduating.

James went on the road with Morris Day in 1985 as a keyboardist, in time convincing Day that James should playing saxophones instead. After four years with Day, James became greatly in-demand for his playing on tenor, alto, soprano and flute, working with Sheena Easton, the Isley Brothers, Bobby Caldwell and Randy Crawford, among others. While on tour with Crawford, he mentioned to a keyboardist that he was running out of food money. The keyboardist joked that if he ate any less, he would have to be called Boney James; the name stuck. He made his recording debut as a leader with 1992’s Trust and, influenced by Grover Washington Jr., Boney James was a hit from the start. He has since recorded 10 CDs, including many for Warner Bros. and most recently Shine for Concord. Boney James, who has also teamed up with trumpeter Rick Braun, is a regular headliner at festivals.