Boney James: futuresoul

Retro-soul meets new-school production on Boney James’ futuresoul. The contemporary jazz saxophonist built a highly successful career on a sound deeply rooted in R&B, and his credentials in that arena are impeccable. Heavily influenced by the likes of Grover Washington Jr., the Stylistics and Earth, Wind and Fire, James started his career as a sideman with the Isley Brothers, Morris Day, Teena Marie and Randy Crawford. He’s also interested in contemporary recording technology, and on futuresoul he combines classic R&B-inspired melodies with modern studio techniques to create a sophisticated take on his signature sound.

The tracks “Vinyl” and “futuresoul” embody the old-school inspiration/contemporary technology theme of the album, albeit in different ways. Opening with the sound of an LP spinning on a turntable, the former has a vintage-feeling melody bolstered by a sample of the Stylistics’ “People Make the World Go Round.” On the title tune, the smooth, organ-accented melody rides a slapping electronic beat.

On the slow-grooving urban-jazz ballad “Either Way,” James spotlights Mint Condition singer Stokley. But a more affecting pairing is James’ collaboration with Marquis Hill, winner of the 2014 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Trumpet Competition, on the dramatic ballad “Far From Home.” The two musicians exhibit a solid rapport, harmonizing fluidly and sharing lyrical leads. It’s a connection worth exploring on future projects.