May 22, 2024

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CD review: Bob James Trio – Feel Like Making Live! 2022: Video, CD cover

Sometime back in the 90s I attended a Joe Sample concert where he fronted an acoustic trio. As he ran through a repertoire of songs pulled from slickly-produced affairs like CarmelSpellbound and Ashes To Ashes, it was striking how well his music held up in the exposed format of piano, acoustic bass and drums.

Joe Sample was great because his songs and musicianship was great, no matter if the arrangement was commercially oriented or technology-free.

The same could be said of Bob James, another excellent jazz keyboardist, arranger and composer who sometimes finds himself unfairly lumped in with the bland brigade of smooth jazzers because of his predilection for putting a contemporary sheen on his recordings. But now those excuses fall by the wayside with the upcoming release of James’ latest album Feel Like Making LIVE! on January 28th, 2022.

For this first album of new recordings in four years, James reconvenes his Trio from 2018’s Espresso and once again records the group in the studio. But instead of applying post-tracking accoutrements, James chose to capture the trio playing just as they would in a club: live with no overdubs or edits. There’s no new material here, the discovery comes from James & Co. playing in this format tunes from his classic 70’s funk-jazz period with a few old radio hits from pop stars tossed in.

Which brings us to the tasty preview we’re getting of Feel Like Making LIVE!: we get to see — not just hear — the music being made in the video above. This is really a Two Track Mind article, as James, acoustic bassist Michael Palazzolo and drummer Billy Kilson reimagine James’ 1974 cover of Eugene McDaniels’ “Feel Like Making Love” made famous by Roberta Flack that year, followed by his own 1977 original “Night Crawler.”

James’ electric piano makes this not quite all-acoustic but it’s all-old school virtuosity as one of the all-time Rhodes godfathers applies loads of technique, feel and timing to McDaniels’ sweet melody. Palazzolo and Kilson apply that light groove that always makes a good James song go. The three as so locked in together on “Night Crawler,” and James plays part of his solo as a piano/electric piano unison, which is no mean feat, sliding right into full piano. Palazzolo then keeps things percolating with a lively and funky aside.

Take away all those fussy orchestral arrangements of those vintage renderings of “Feel Like Making Love” and “Night Crawler” and what is left is the heart of what’s made Bob James a long-time great. He still is.

01 – Angela (06:57)
02 – Rocket Man (04:50)
03 – Maputo (04:42)
04 – Topside (05:48)
05 – Misty (04:51)
06 – Avalabop (06:02)
07 – Nautilus (02:47)
08 – Downtown (06:27)
09 – Niles A Head (04:47)
10 – Feel Like Making Love – Night Crawler (09:16)
11 – Submarine (05:40)
12 – Mister Magic (08:31)
13 – Nardis (06:26)
14 – Westchester Lady (05:48)

Bob James – piano, keyboards
Michael Palazzolo – bass
Billy Kilson – drums


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