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A solid saxophonist whose style falls on the R&B-ish and pop side of jazz, Boney James (who is heavily influenced by Grover Washington Jr.) is a consistent best-seller who can always be relied upon to put on a colorful live show. Born James Oppenheim, he grew up in New Rochelle, New York. The future Boney James studied clarinet when he was eight, switching to saxophone two years later. When he was 15, his family moved to Los Angeles. James was soon playing in a fusion band (Line One) that was strong enough to open for Flora Purim and the Yellowjackets. After a year attending UC Berkeley, he transferred to UCLA so he could continue playing with the band. He earned a degree in history but became a full-time musician after graduation, doubling on keyboards. James went on the road as a keyboardist with Morris Day in 1985 and eventually convinced Day that he should be playing saxophone instead. He spent four years with Day and became an in-demand guest musician on tenor, alto, soprano, and flute, playing with Randy Crawford, Sheena Easton, the Isley Brothers, Bobby Caldwell, and others.
He picked up his nickname while on tour with Crawford. After mentioning to a keyboardist that he was running out of food money, the musician replied that if he ate any less, he would have to be called Boney James. The popular saxophonist made his debut as a leader with Trust in 1992 (Spindletop) and then in 1994 was signed by Warner Bros., where he recorded dates including Backbone, Seduction, Boney's Funky Christmas, Sweet Thing, Shake It Up, Ride, and Pure. In 2006, Boney made the move to Concord Records and released Shine. Send One Your Love followed in 2009. In 2010, while driving home after an appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival, James was rear-ended by another vehicle. The accident totaled James' car and left him with a fractured jaw and two missing teeth -- injuries that could have ended his playing career. James recuperated, and in 2011 he released Contact, an album whose title refers to the profound effect the accident had on his life and career. James re-signed with Concord in 2012. In the early spring of 2013, he released The Beat, an album that combined his love of R&B and Latin music. The set included guest appearances from Raheem DeVaughn and Floacist.
Boney James, (born James Oppenheim, September 1, 1961 in Lowell, Massachusetts) is a saxophonist, songwriter and producer.
In 2009 Billboard magazine named James the No. 3 Billboard Contemporary Jazz Artist of the Decade. Boney James is a four-time Grammy Award nominee (Best Pop Instrumental Album, 2001, 2004, 2014 and Best Traditional R&B Performance, 2009 ) and a Soul Train Award winner (Best Jazz Album 1998). He has also been honored with two NAACP Image Award nominations for Best Jazz Album. He has accumulated four RIAA Certified Gold Records.
According to the Boston Globe: "Let's make something perfectly clear: James is not a smooth jazz player. Yeah, he is often grouped with people like Kenny G and Najee, but his music is muscular and gritty, whereas most smooth jazz has all the texture and complexity of a cue ball...James swaggered across the stage like a blacktop hero draining treys on an overmatched opponent. He even weaved his way through the audience, never missing a beat and all but daring the crowd not to have a good time."http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/tv/showtracker/la-et-complete-list-nominees-45th-naacp-image-awards-20140109,0,4214702.story#axzz2pwtnTip0 http://jazzfest.sanjosejazz.org/2012/boney-james-making-contact
Boney James took up the clarinet at the age of eight, later switching to sax when he was 10. Boney spent his early teen years in New Rochelle, New York where he was first exposed to the Motown genre and saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr.. When James was 14 his family moved to Los Angeles, where he joined a fusion band that opened for acts like Flora Purim and the Yellowjackets. Another member of this early band was John Shanks, now a successful pop producer. James eventually received a degree in history from UCLA, but began playing music full-time after graduation. James learned to play keyboards and in 1985 he joined Morris Day's band. His R&B influence was further strengthened by seven years of touring and sessions as a sideman with Day, the Isley Brothers, Bobby Caldwell, Randy Crawford, Teena Marie and others. It was on the road with Crawford in 1986 that he earned his now-famous moniker; when his physique led a band mate to joke "We'll have to start calling you Boney James!".
In the early 1990s, after joining Bobby Caldwell's band, James caught the attention of the engineer and producer Paul Brown. In 1992 he released his debut album as a leader, Trust, on the independent record label Spindletop Records. Following the record's success, James was signed by the Warner Brothers label in 1994. He released the RIAA Certified Gold Records, Seduction, Sweet Thing and Body Language on Warner Brothers.
In 2000 he collaborated with trumpeter Rick Braun on an album called Shake it Up. Their duets include the now classic updated version of Hugh Masakela's "Grazin' in the Grass". Other artists who have made guest appearances on Boney's records include Raheem DeVaughn, Faith Evans, George Benson, George Duke, Dwele, Al Jarreau, Philip Bailey, Anthony Hamilton, Jaheim, Eric Benét, Dave Hollister and Angie Stone. James assumed the role of producer starting with his Pure album in 2003. Following a string of chart-topping albums, in 2006 James moved to Concord Records and with the release of Shine achieved his career highest Billboard Pop Chart position (No. 44 on the Top 200). His 2009 album, Send One Your Love earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional R&B Performance. James' 2013 album The Beat received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Album.
On May 15, 2010, James was involved in a car crash coming home from a performance when he was rear ended by a drunk driver. James suffered a fractured jaw, two shattered teeth and facial lacerations. He was sidelined for 2 months.
He is married to actress and director Lily Mariye. In 2012 he contributed an original score to her feature film directorial debut, Model Minority.Boney James 2007 interview Biography in Billboard Magazine http://articles.latimes.com/1994-12-23/entertainment/ca-12420_1_boney-james Larry Rodgers (May 18, 2010). "Sax man Boney James hurt in car crash". The Arizona Republic. http://www.modelminoritymovie.com/