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Bob James: Grand Piano Canyon (1990)

by February 19, 2006
Bob James: Grand Piano Canyon (1990)

Bob James: Grand Piano Canyon (1990)

Label: Warner Brothers (26256-2)

At the time, I doubt many would have expected the freshness of this release. One of my all-time favorite musicians (and people), Bob James should have been in the twilight of his career: over 20 solo releases in the last 30 years, including a career as a prominent arranger/producer during most of that time. By mixing some of his fellow studio musicians (and friends) with some new production assistance, he put together one of his best releases in years while at the same time launching the jazz super-group Fourplay.

I was lucky enough to meet Bob James as a kid back in the 1970's, and I will never forget how he took the time to talk with me (and sign my album) in the midst of what was essentially controlled backstage chaos.

Track List

  1. Bare Bones
  2. Restoration
  3. Wings For Sarah
  4. Svengali
  5. Worlds Apart
  6. "…stop that!"
  7. Xraxse
  8. Just Listen
  9. Far From Turtle

Audio Quality

This CD had a little bit of everything: big-band ( Bare Bones ), smooth jazz ( Restoration ), fusion ( "…stop that!" ), and ballads ( Just Listen ). In fact, the only weak track is Wings For Sarah , which carries a dedication to the late, great Sarah Vaughn, who gave Bob James one of his big breaks as a musical director in the late 1960s. The sound quality is outstanding throughout, representing James' first all-digital release. As always, Bob is joined by an outstanding list of soloists, including Eric Gale (guitar), Michael Brecker (tenor sax), Kirk Whalum (tenor sax), and Lee Ritenour (guitar). It's this last collaboration that led to the creation of one of the great jazz super-groups of the last decade: Fourplay, featuring Harvey Mason on drums and Nathan East on bass, Lee Ritenour on guitars, and Bob James on keyboards. All had already enjoyed long solo careers in addition to stints as first-call studio musicians in the 1970's and 1980's, which explains the instant (and continued) success of Fourplay.

Summary

Of all the great Bob James releases over the years (and many I learned from as a young musician), Grand Piano Canyon stands out as frequent listen even today. In fact, it's one of the few CD's I have on my iPod in its entirety, and I think rejuvenated an incredible career that continues to produce quality mainstream jazz to this day.

Audioholics Ratings Scale

5 - Outstanding: Far exceeded expectations and previous experience - Very highly recommended
4 - Above Average: As good or better than other products/performances - Highly recommended
3 - Average: Met expectations, may include some moments of brilliance offset by small flaws - Recommended
2 - Below Average: Did not meet expectations, some obvious flaws - Some may enjoy
1 - Very Poor: Why did they even bother? Obvious flaws abound, monumental problems - Not Recommended

Review Ratings

Audio Quality

5

Features (liner notes)

4

Overall

5


Reference Equipment

Yamaha DSP-A3090 Natural Sound A/V Amplifier (Stereo Mode)
Sony DVP-S7700 Reference DVD Player
Polk Monitor 10B Speakers (x2)

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About the author:

Stanton was born and raised in Kansas City, where he was exposed to the rich culture of jazz at a very young age. He's a drummer and an electrical engineer and loves to review jazz music for us.

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