Boney James Biography

James Oppenheim, 1 September 1961, Lowell, Massachusetts, USA. Raised in New Rochelle, New York, Boney James played clarinet at school, then the tenor saxophone and later the alto and soprano. His early musical tastes leaned towards contemporary pop, fusion and rock, including Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind And Fire and Grover Washington Jnr. His family moved to Los Angeles in 1975 where he began to play in garage bands and then became a session musician. In this capacity he backed many artists including the Isley Brothers and Randy Crawford. It was on a Scandinavian tour with Crawford in the mid-80s that he picked up the nickname by which he has since been known professionally. By the early 90s his eclectic taste in music and its sometimes diffusing effect upon his playing had given way to a distinctive style, mostly on tenor, which strongly favours a melodic approach. This led to popularity on radio stations with a liking for smooth jazz. Indeed, in 1995 Seduction spent 17 weeks as number 1 on R&R’s NAC chart, 16 weeks in top spot on Gavin’s Smooth Jazz and Vocal chart, and was on Billboard’s Top 10 Contemporary Jazz list for a year. Also in the mid-90s he toured as opening act with Al Jarreau and the Rippingtons, thus attracting even more attention to his playing. However, during this same period his interest in developing a parallel career as a composer was growing steadily. Normally themed Christmas albums are to be avoided but surprisingly one of his most consistent sets to date was the seasonal Boney’s Funky Christmas, recorded with James’ long-time producer Paul Brown. Pure charted high in 2004 and Shine did even better in 2006.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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