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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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The New Cool

Concord Records
CRE - 39008 - 02



  1. The New Cool

  2. Oliver's Bag

  3. All Will Be Revealed

  4. Midnight Magic/Love Me As Though There Were No Tomorrow

  5. Crazy

  6. How Deep Is The Ocean

  7. Canto Y La Danza

  8. Waltz For Judy

  9. Seattle Sunrise

  10. Ghost Of A Chance

  11. Turbulence

Bob James - Piano, keyboards

Nathan East - Bass, vocals

Rafael Padilla Percussion (tracks 7, 11)

Scott Williamson Drums (tracks 7, 11)

Vince Gill - Vocal (track 5)

Nashville Recording Orchestra (Concert Master David Davidson) (tracks 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11)

Bob James is widely regarded as belonging in the 'smooth jazz' category, alongside musicians like saxophonist Kenny G. Yet this pianist, keyboard player, arranger, composer and record producer has far more to him that that sometimes formulaic approach might suggest. For instance, his roots were in bop and free jazz and he was, in his early days in the business, musical director for singer Sarah Vaughan. It's true that he has worked with pop stars like Neil Diamond and Paul Simon but he has also recorded Latin jazz with Gato Barbieri and made an acoustic piano recording with Christian McBride and Brian Blade, for instance. Furthermore, he has on occasions recorded classical music. Of course, he has been a moving spirit in the Fourplay jazz group since 1991 and undoubtedly they are easy on the ear. That hardly constitutes a crime. For some people, this is where, initially, they find their way into jazz and for others, it may be all they will seek from the music. At any rate, this double Grammy winning musician brings a rich blend of experience to the task of music-making. Alongside him is the jazz, rhythm and blues and rock bass player Nathan East who has made a phenomenal number of recordings, much of them in the sphere of pop music (a notable exception would be when he worked with Herbie Hancock). The duo are joined by percussionist and drummer on a couple of tracks and by the Nashville Recording Orchestra on six. In addition, Country music singer Vince Gill contributes the vocal on a Willie Nelson number, Crazy.

The first comment to make about this CD is that the overall standard is high. For me, Canto Y La Danza is a standout since there is a combination of quality material (composed by Nathan East and Jeff Babko) and exceptional bass playing. There is even, and here I'm surmising since there is insufficient information on the sleeve notes, East on vocal over a background chorus. The compositions by Bob James, of which there are five, and by East and Babko (three), all hold up well. The standard How Deep Is The Ocean receives imaginative attention but its sheer familiarity is a drawback, for this listener at least. Ghost Of A Chance is an orchestral piece given emphatic treatment by James and the impressive East. Crazy, again with the orchestra in support, is well sung in country music style by Vince Gill but maybe is just a little cheesy. The rest are very good indeed. The New Cool is a fine composition presented with an effortless swing by the duo.Oliver's Bag is another creative work, notable for James' assured touch and East's steady and tuneful support. All Will Be Revealed is an orchestral number, complete with vocal chorus, and is thoroughly accessible. Midnight Magic, which merges with that fine ballad Love Me As Though There Were No Tomorrow, demonstrates the extra-ordinary rapport between bass and piano on this album. The lilting Waltz For Judy and the tender Seattle Sunrise also make for listener satisfaction. The final track, Turbulence, a Bob James original, shows James to be a model of intensity and swing while Nathan East doesn't miss a beat. The drum/percussion section gives strong support.

Ahmad Jamal, Duke Ellington, Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson have all been influences on the James piano style. He is certainly one fine pianist and his colleague of twenty-five years, Nathan East, is also a superb instrumentalist. So, let's do away with the labels and simply appreciate the quality of the music on The New Cool.

James Poore

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