Saxophonist Boney James Discusses His ‘Solid’ New Album
Solid is the title of four-time Grammy nominated saxophonist Boney James’ seventeenth album. It’s the follow-up to his hugely successful 2017 release, Honestly, which became his eleventh #1 album on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz chart.
The inspiration for the eleven-track compilation flowed at an unusually quick pace for James and is chock full of the signature sound and movement. Most notably, on the infectiously smooth opening track, “Full Effect,” and “Luna,” which features an ethereal, almost Latin-fused groove.
Other highlights from Solid include the album’s title-track and “Tonic,” both of which inspired and built from licks performed by guitarist Kendall Gilder during sound checks on James’ Honestly tour. “Be Here,” an Adult-Urban single initiated by James’ longtime collaborator, Jairus ‘J-Mo’ Mozee, is another transportive track that features an inspired serenade from special guest, Kenny Lattimore.
With Solid, James delivers an album worthy of his depth, creativity and maturity. Moreover, it’s a welcome respite from the stress of today’s chaotic world.
Solid will be released on Friday, June 12.
I recently spoke with James about the new album and more in this exclusive new interview.
How did Solid come about?
Boney James: It’s been over two years since my Honestly CD and I started getting the urge to make new music. Whenever that feeling hits I’ll start collecting ideas. I discovered that as soon as I started writing, the songs just sort of popped out. Sometimes a song might have taken a little bit longer to develop but, for the most part, once I put my thinking cap on there they were.
How does the new album relate to some of your previous work?
BJ: That’s a tough thing to say. I just make the music and let other people decide what to think. Every record has its own character but I was feeling a strong sense of positive energy from this music. Some of these songs put a big smile on my face. I remember as I was making the record it was very transporting and took me out of the day to day worries of stress of life. That’s always what I try to do but I really felt it this time, particularly on a few of these songs. With everything going on in the world right now it’s even more appropriate to have something that might put a smile on your face when you listen to it.
What’s your writing process like?
BJ: The interesting thing is there’s no set way. Some songs on the record, like “The Bottom Line,” started out as a melody idea I had on the sax. I recorded a snippet of it and then sat down at the keyboard and found the chord structure that went behind it and the groove followed. Other songs like “Solid” or “Full Effect” started with my guitar player jamming at soundcheck. I grabbed a recording of the guitar and then wrote a melody and groove around that. Still others were tracks sent to me by Jairus Mozee that made me think of melodies. It’s always something different.
What can you tell me about the track, “Luna?”
BJ: That has such a cool vibe. It started with me playing the sax and then arpeggiating. I recorded the idea, never expecting it to go in a Samba/Latin way. The melody followed the chords and it started to feel ethereal. I accented those arrangements with synthy textures. The vocal was another thing that came at the end and was the icing on the cake.
How about the song, “Be Here?”
BJ: That was a track Jairus had sent me. I originally thought it might be vocal song, so I started messing around with a few melody ideas. I’ve always been a fan of Ken Lattimore’s music. The two of us sent it back and forth a little bit. It felt like a hit to me right away.
How do you know when an instrumental song lends itself better as a vocal one?
BJ: Often it’s a song that I think might be good for me, but when I put the sax on it it doesn’t support the instrumental treatment. The song has to have a certain feel to it. That’s my strategy for figuring out what could be a good vocal. Something that’s really cool that just doesn’t work, for whatever reason, as an instrumental. It’s all instinctive.
As a performing artist, how have you adjusted to self-quarantine?
BJ: When I’m not on the road I usually spend a lot of time in the studio. What’s happening now though is surreal. Large gatherings are banned and I’m part of the large gathering business.
What satisfies you the most about the new album?
BJ: I’m so pleased with how the writing came out. The record and music in general has always been about the songs. I’m looking forward to eventually getting out there and playing these songs live and getting back to normal.