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Boney James plots a course for "Futuresoul"
You won't hear Boney James complain at all about the reception for his latest album, "Futuresoul."
The saxophonist's 15th release came out of the box with a blast, debuting at No. 1 on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz and Current Jazz charts -- though James is loathe to call himself a jazz artist. Still, he says of those placements, "I'll take it. I love the record myself, and I'm always hoe people will respond positively. But this one seems to be a little over the top looking at fans online, the charts. I'm happy."
James, 53 -- who was born James Oppenheim -- says "Futuresoul" was "an organic process," but as the title suggests it's a deliberate fusion of vintage R&B influences with contemporary elements. "It sounds like modern soul music to me," notes James. "A couple people have said it's really modern sounding but also retro. I think they work together; it's still about people playing together in the studio, but we have different tools at our disposal now that I thought would be fun to apply.
"So the title 'Futuresoul' doesn't necessarily meaning 'modernizing' a sound. It's more recognizing that here we are in 2015, working with these tools we have but still inspired by this soul music of the 70s. It's impressive to me that the music has stood the test of time like it has."
James was also influenced on "Futuresoul" by his continuing collaboration with Detroit singer Dwele, who helped create and sang on the title track. Their association goes back to James' 2003 track "Pure" and they've appeared on each other's projects since -- although James says "Futuresoul" came about a bit differently than they've worked together in the past.
"I sent him another (instrumentL0 track to see if he might want to write a lyric to it," James recalls. "He wasn't feeling it, but he said, 'I might have stuff in my archive you might want to write an instrumental to.' That's the first time we've done it that way, but it worked out well.
"Because I'm such a control freak, my preference is to do it the other way and let (his collaborators) write to my music. But Dwele is somebody you can trust to do something great, so you have to keep your mind open to any possibilities."
Boney James and Dave McMurray
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 3.
Chene Park Amphitheatre, 2600 Atwater Street at Chene.
Tickets are $36 and $18 pavilion, $13 lawn.
Call 313-393-0292 or visit www.cheneparkdetroit.com.
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