Boney James made his debut as a rock-solid saxophonist in 1992 with his first album, Trust, and then was signed by Warner Bros. in 1994, where he recorded best-seller sets Backbone (1994), Seduction (1995), Boney's Funky Christmas (1996), Sweet Thing (1997), Body Language (1999) and Ride (2001).
Boney James was born James Oppenheim in Massachusetts, and was raised in New Rochelle, New York, where he played clarinet at school beginning at the young age of eight. James diversified his talents and switched to the tenor saxophone just two years later, and then to the alto and soprano. His musical interests included contemporary pop, fusion and rock, with his favorite musicians being Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Grover Washington Jr. His family moved to Los Angeles in 1975, where he started to play in garage fusion bands, such as Line One, which was talented enough to open for Flora Purim and the Yellowjackets.
James earned a degree in History at U.C.L.A., but pursued his musical interests and became a full-time musician. He began his career as a keyboardist with Morris Day in 1985 and soon after persuaded Day that he should be playing the saxophone. After spending four years with Morris Day he was well-known and in demand for guest spots on tenor, alto, soprano, and flute. He played with many great artists of his time, including Randy Crawford, Sheena Easton, the Isley Brothers, and Bobby Caldwell. James picked up his nickname on a Scandinavian tour with Crawford in the mid 80s when he admitted he was running out of money for food and that if he ate any less he'd have to be called 'Boney James.'
In the early 90s Boney was playing a new and unique style, and he gained popularity on smooth jazz radio stations. Warner Bros. soon signed him and he began recording best-sellers (starting with Trust, Backbone) including Seduction, which spent 17 weeks as number one on R&R's NAC chart, 16 weeks in the top spot on Gavin's Smooth Jazz and Vocal chart, and was on Billboard's Top 10 Contemporary Jazz list for an entire year. Along with his album releases, Boney toured with Al Jarreau and the Rippingtons and at the same time developed his parallel career as a composer.
Boney James has definitely helped broaden the audience for smooth jazz, which, unlike other forms of jazz, does not focus on improvisation. James focuses on the steady groove, and a relaxing time is what you will get when you attend a concert featuring Boney James.
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