Born in Massachusetts and raised in New Rochelle, N.Y., Boney James is a saxophonist who began playing music at the tender age of eight. Boney is a two-time Grammy nominee, a Soul Train Award winner and he has accumulated three Gold records. His current and tenth CD, Shine, debuted at #1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz charts, #6 on the R+B chart and #44 on the Pop Chart and boast collaborations from Faith Evans, George Benson, Dwele and Philip Bailey.
Singersroom: As a leading pioneer for Urban Jazz, how did you create the sound and concept?
Boney James: I don’t know if I believe I’m a pioneer, to me I was just following in the tradition of people I grew up admiring like Grover Washington Jr. There was a bunch of sax players when I was coming up that were starting to take R&B music and play a sexy jazz sound on top of it. Also bands like Earth, Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield even Marvin [Gaye], were guys who had their R&B music with a healthy dose of Jazz on top of it, so I’m coming from that tradition. Except some of the music I’m using fuses it with contemporary more Neo-soul or hip hop influences.
Singersroom: In carrying the tradition of the old soul artist, why didn’t you choose fusing their classic material with your sound?
Boney James: It’s just what I’m feeling at the time, that’s who I am. I was just trying to make a record that I can really fall in love with. When I’m making a record I’m the only person that can know how that person feels, so I’m trying to respond to what feels right to me. What gets me excited or has me emotionally connected to the music when I’m playing it.
Singersroom: You worked with Dwele, Faith Evans, Esther; how did you choose which artist you wanted to collaborate with?
Boney James: For the most part it is just people I like and admire. Faith Evans I have always been a fan of hers and when I finished writing that song on the record; I wondered if she would do it because I could really hear her sing that and luckily she said yes. Dwele I had heard his first song on the radio and I thought it was really hip, so I reached out to him and now this is the third time we are working together. When I’m working on my record I get these ideas about how “so and so” would sound on there and we try to make it happen.
Singersroom: Before you hear the artist on the record, what helps you imagine which artist will sound good on the record?
Boney James: It’s just your imagination. When you’re making the record you try to open your mind up. There are so many millions of ways that anything can happen, so you just try to stay open to lots of different ideas. Deep down in your heart sometimes you get the feeling that ok “that feels right.” You follow your inner voice to what’s the “right” thing to do.
Singersroom: Sometimes following your inner voice is like Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?
Boney James: (laughter) But maybe those records don’t get heard. Not every idea I get is a good one either, sometimes you try shit out and its like “oh that didn’t work.” There is a little experimentation involved too, that is the mark of making a good record or bad one when the person making it has the right instincts, of course all of it is subjective because I might think its dope and somebody might say “it is all f**ked up.” (laughter)
Singersroom: Do you think the saxophone is the sex instrument?
Boney James: People tell me that, I feel that. If somebody is playing right and if it’s the right song it can really bend you around a little bit. That is what I really loved about it when first coming up; it made you feel all twisted. —— By: Interview By Adeniyi Omisore