Boney James' unlikely stand

The cringey countdown is certainly on and moving full steam ahead towards release day for the new Boney James record. The record company has put up a few glossy photos,...

Published: 8 Feb 2020. Updated: 8 days.


The cringey countdown is certainly on and moving full steam ahead towards release day for the new Boney James record. The record company has put up a few glossy photos, the latter the work of ''creative duo'' '''Describe the Fauna'''. How exciting.

Smooth jazz, the kingdom of which Mr James is one of the chief tempters of tune, is not to be taken at all seriously. Or, more to the point, at all.

However, in one of those inconvenient ironies it is often the guilty secret of many a top jazz club that they sneak on this kind of stuff while maintaining their reputation somehow of still being a serious jazz club.

Usually all the real jazz fans run away when smooth is on so the clubs end up with a completely new audience of diehards or baffled newcomer innocents who never admit quite sensibly beyond the confines of the club to even knowing what smooth jazz is let alone who the daft guy with the sax and the hat happens to be.

In an age of social media the weird thing is that smooth jazz hardly earns a tweet, never ever a review unless someone is taking the piss, and yet packs jazz clubs out every time the American stars (they are nearly all American) decide Europeans need this sort of thing inflicted on them like now.

Let's be charitable, on quiet nights when only a few people and their admittedly highly discerning pet dogs turn out for hip new band Trigonometry who are however public spiritedly tackling the more preposterous side of Colosseum, things for the club are looking grim when the jazz club cash till has terminally seized up through lack of use this side of Christmas and possibly for ever unless they can get Dave Koz on the phone again and book him for a month to restore their scarily depleted coffers.

Intrinsically a waste of time beyond keeping overpaid record company excecutives in a job (when companies could actually hire people who cared), one of the great paradoxes of the universe is how acts such as Boney James sell a lot of records. People I suspect buy their records because they have been hypnotised into believing that what they are listening to is not music but instead a sticky, highly bad for you, ''fun'' drug called atmosphere that makes a change from listening to their beloved Andre Rieu all day long or enjoying the on-hold music they listen to when they are ringing up for news of the exciting new range of tropical salsa Kettle chips in stock soon at their local Asda. If your idea of atmosphere by the way is sitting listening to someone playing the same old licks badly all night made to sound good by a backing band who should be actors and a crafty sound engineer who somehow has made the muppet on stage sound good and deserves a medal, then good luck to you.

Solid is released by Concord in April. Its predecessor the unironically titled Honestly made it to the top of the Billboard contemporary jazz album charts and the chances are that this will have a sporting chance too if the marketing guys spend enough cash to ease it along which they still do even when it can be estimated to sell shedloads without their ever lifting a pampered finger. There is always budget to promote the likes of Solid when most jazz albums get about a fiver to cosy up to the one person who might review it to encourage a few more to buy it. Boney says sweetly but very bizarrely: “I often get great compliments from the people that come to my shows, that I ‘never disappoint’ them, and that’s very gratifying to me. That’s what I was trying to express with this title, that sense of character… to stand for something principled.” SG

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