Boney James March 11, 2006
Boney James: Short and Sizzling at Cerritos
By Glen Creason
If the old show biz adage “leave em’ wanting more” holds water then Boney James will continue to sell out every show in sight around these parts. In a tight and very condensed ninety minute show, the charismatic saxophonist blew away the sellout crowd with free-flowing solos and power plant energy from his Boneyness and a great band at the Performing Arts Center on Saturday night. He left the joint laughing joyfully at the skills of each fine musician in his ensemble playing off one another like they had rehearsed it a hundred times a hundred. The joke appears to be on us since Mr. James seems to be having so much fun playing with his mates, the audience is just gravy in this musical feast. Despite the brevity of the whole, the band made the minutes count. James is a rarity in contemporary music: an instrumentalist who tops the charts and goes platinum without many words being sung.
Boney James plays a full-throttle R&B-tinged brand of jazz that only gets smooth in spaces between the heated licks from his tenor, alto and soprano ax. He strutted the stage unencumbered by a power cord and bounded from one end to the other blasting off flurries of notes that made you wonder how long he could sustain the flow. His opening salvo continued toward fifteen minutes which was typical but by the time the group launched into “Grand Central” they were just breaking a sweat. “Stone Groove” was exactly that, aided greatly by rip-shorting bass from Sam Sims and a rocking percussion duo of kit drummer Williams and the superb Lenny Castro. “Better With Time” was a passionate ballad, propelled by James’ “little” horn and the vocal talents of lead guitarist Norris Jones. Jones darn near stole the stage from the star when he was given the spotlight. His guitar playing was marvelous, he sang like a seasoned vet, danced up a storm and also seemed to have the ladies’ interest all across the hall.
Despite flashier stuff during the night, the highlight on this night was the beautiful, layered send up of Bill Wither’s classic “Aint No Sunshine” that showcased the ripped bass lines of Sam Sims, a truly awesome guitar solo by Jones and a very sweet soprano sax job by James himself. Their version only served to recognize the enduring quality of this tune and it’s solid place in pop history. On what we suspected was “Boneyizm” the band turned it over to the two drummers who turned it into a percussion marathon, unseen since the day of Buddy Miles. The thing was a happening as in “Sweet Thing” which fluttered like a butterfly and “It’s a Beautiful Thing” featuring some crowd-wowing theatrics that saw Boney James take his sax amongst enraptured and on their feet dancing fans all the way up to the top of the orchestra. Now, in a full lather the band kept it up with “Ride” that put pedal to the metal and with the place rocking gave up one single encore of “Grazing in the Grass,” a smooth, swinging groove that ended with several thousand folks begging for more. Boney James is much more Grover Washington Jr. than John Coltrane but that has its place in contemporary music. This was a fun show packed with plenty of shining solos and tight ensemble jams that made for accessible, friendly, chair boogie quite agreeable to this packed Cerritos house.