"David and I realized long ago that Double Vision had become more successful than we originally imagined it could be," James says. "Ironically, although we've met in the studio, doing other people's projects, we've never toured, or performed together live as a band. The exception was a midnight jam session at the Tokyo Jazz Festival a few years ago. We played just a couple of tunes, but it engendered the feeling that a reunion was way overdue."
On their second go-round, the old masters eschew the pop and R&B production values that mark large chunks of their respective discographies, and offer instead an all-acoustic quartet recital consisting of four new compositions by James, three pieces by Sanborn, and two James-arranged covers ("My Old Flame," "Geste Humain"). Propelled by legendary drummer Steve Gadd and 21st century bass giant James Genus, the proceedings are reflective, swinging, chock-a-block with unfailingly melodic improvising and beautiful tonalities.
"At this stage of my life, I wanted more than anything to play music that's challenging and fun, outside the style we've been associated with," Sanborn says. "For various reasons, a lot of my records only reflected one side of the many kinds of music I was doing." Over the past decade, Sanborn adds, his records "reflect a side of my sensibility that I hadn't been expressing as much, paying respects to guys like Hank Crawford and David 'Fathead' Newman, who inspired me to start when I was a teenager in St. Louis."
"We felt it's far more exciting and adventurous to move forward," James says. "Times have changed. The music business has changed. We have changed."
It's a poignant coincidence that the recording sessions occurred in December 2012, a week after the death of Dave Brubeck, who the protagonists were thinking of as they gestated Quartette Humaine. "We talked about the interplay of Brubeck's quartet with Paul Desmond," Sanborn says. Coming from that, I assumed we'd make a quartet date. I like being able to really hear all the individual instruments. We had this beautiful 9-foot grand piano, and you can hear its sound ring out. You get more sonic purity without all those other elements."
Indeed, both the tunes and treatments channel Brubeck's gift for creating communicative music from highbrow raw materials. "Dave has a similar capability to Paul Desmond-though in a different way-in that the lyric quality of the way they play takes it into an emotional-romantic concept rather than an intellectual one," James says of Sanborn. "I felt-and I still do when I listen to the Brubeck quartet-that they were taking us on an adventure, and some of the adventure was challenging. Just when you thought you knew where you were going, they'd go somewhere different."
It's this adventurous, "in-the-moment" spirit that fuels Sanborn and James on Quartette Humaine. "It's so much fun to do it this way," Sanborn reflects. "I used to separate live playing from being in the studio, and got into a mindset of having to labor over a record and make it right. I want the studio to reflect that live experience-the fun of discovery, not knowing what's going to happen until it happens."
Upcoming Bob James & Bob James Appearances:
June 6 / Town Hall / New York, NY
June 8 / Fraze Pavillon/ Kettering, OH
June 9 / Capital Jazz Fest / Columbia, MD
June 14 / Rotary Amphitheatre / Fresno, CA
June 15 / Thornton Winery / Temecula, CA
June 16 / Playboy Jazz Festival/ Los Angeles, CA
June 17 / SFJAZZ Center / San Francisco, CA
June 19 / Schermerhorn Symphony Center / Nashville, TN
June 20 / Jazziz Night Life / Boca Raton, FL
June 21/ Plaza Live / Orlando, FL
June 22 / Palladium Theater / St. Petersburg, FL
June 24 / Ottawa Jazz Fest /Ottawa, ON
June 25 / Toronto Jazz Fest / Toronto, CA
June 26 / Chene Park / Detroit, MI
June 27 / Rochester Jazz Fest / Rochester, NY
June 28 / Keswick Theatre/ Glenside, PA
June 29 / Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Fest / Saratoga, NY
June 30 / Hampton Jazz Fest / Hampton, VA
July 9 / Istanbul Jazz Festival / Istanbul, Turkey
July 12 / North Sea Jazz Festival / Rotterdam, Netherlands
July 16 / Montreux Jazz Fest / Montreux, Switzerland
July 20 / TBA / St. Moritz, Switzerland
July 21 / Montreux Jazz Fest / Montreux, Switzerland
August 7 / TBA / Haugesund, Norway
August 23 / Back Bay Amphitheater / Newport Beach, CA
August 24 / Mountain View Plaza / Snoqualmie, WA
August 25 / Esther Short Park / Vancouver, WA
September 4 - 5 / Blue Note / Tokyo, Japan
September 9 / Tokyo Jazz Festival / Tokyo, Japan
October 24 / St. Cecilia Music Center / Grand Rapids, MI
October 25 / Manchester's Craftsman's Guild / Pittsburgh, PA
October 27 / The State Theater / New Brunswick, NJ
October 31 / TBA / Zurich, Switzerland
November 3 / TBA / Salzburg, Austria
November 5 / TBA / Lugano, Switzerland
November 8 / TBA / Vienna, Austria
November 9 / TBA / Horsens, Denmark
November 14 / Leverkusan Jazz Fest / Leverkusan, NJ
Quartette Humaine - Tracklisting:
1. You Better Not Go to College (Bob James)
2. Geste Humain (Alice Soyer)
3. Sofia (David Sanborn)
4. Follow Me (Bob James)
5. My Old Flame (Arthur Johnston, Sam Coslow)
6. Another Time, Another Place (David Sanborn)
7. Montezuma (Bob James)
8. Genevieve (David Sanborn)
9. Deep in the Weeds (Bob James)