Saxophonist Boney James returns with his first CD of all-new music since 2006’s Shine. James has always leaned toward the R&B side of instrumental music, and he’s cleverly expanded his base by inviting new and seasoned vocalists to his projects. Contact continues that formula. The vocal tracks here are what his fans have come to expect: groove-filled ballads with soulful, heartfelt lyrics and singing. You won’t find John Mayer or Rob Thomas doubling down with James-not his style. Instead, he features LeToya Luckett on “When I Had the Chance,” Mario with “That Look on Your Face” and Heather Headley on “I’m Waiting.” The best new tune is “Close to You” featuring Donell Jones, his vocals riding over a hip groove, staccato drumming and James’ soprano sax.
That leaves six instrumental tunes for James to flex his horn on and, as with the vocal tracks, all were produced, arranged and co-written by the artist. Fans won’t be disappointed, as they are all worthy additions to James’ catalog. “Contact” and “Spin” will be loved in concert, the latter a languid, swaying tune with long, sexy tenor lines. The title track is bass heavy and laidback but sure to get you moving. Adding spice is a horn section arranged by Jerry Hey.
“Cry” is a meaty ballad with guitar (Dean Parks) and piano (Mark Stephens) accompaniment that gives it smooth texture. Jazz that’s smooth may be gone from the airwaves soon, but “Cry” reminds us how nourishing real smooth jazz can be. “Deep Time” is another gem, with soothing wah-wah effects and James’ alto sax building to repeated climaxes.