Bob James is regarded as one of the founding fathers of the smooth Jazz sound and has been heavily sampled in more recent years ( NWA, Run DMC, Soul II Soul, Missy Elliot and many more). He began his professional music career at age 8 playing piano for a tap dance class but also plays trumpet, timpani and percussion.

His association with smooth jazz began in 1972 whilst working with Stanley Turpentine and Milt Jackson on the album Cherry and is closely associated with Grover Washington Jr and arranged several of Washington’s albums. If you’ve not heard of James then you may well have heard his music as his tune Angela, from his breakthrough album Touchdown, was used as the theme (he also supplied incidental music) to the US sitcom Taxi which starred Danny Devito

His first album as the “main man” was 1974s One but his most well known recording is one of the albums present on this two album CD on the Robinsongs label, Sign Of The Times from 1981. The other album herein is 1980’s H and both were originally released on the Jame’s own Tappan Zee label.

Hi is recorded at Mediasound in New York and includes Grover Washington Jr, guitarist Hiram Bullock abd Buddy Williams on the drums. The opening track, Snowbird Fantasy, has percussion parts played by Airto Moreira, the Brazilian drummer best known for his work with Miles Davis on Bitches Brew – he also guests on the albums closing number Reunited.

Sign Of The Times is the better known of the albums as mentioned and was arranged by Rod Tempterton (Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall and Thriller) with vocals provided by Luther Vandross, Patti Austin and Valerie Simpson. You’ll certainly recognise some of these tunes from more recent samples, even if you don’t know the originals.

OK, I will admit that the smooth jazz sound isn’t my go-to choice whilst flicking through the record collection but I do have a good number of Grover Washington Jr albums on vinyl and once in a while it’s nice to take a break from the norm…and why not a bit of jazz of the smooth variety. Despite the somewhat wishy-washy reputation of the genre, there’s some tunes on these two records that really do stand out as being great records;

The better of the two albums is clearly Sign Of The Times but hey, who can argue with a two for one deal. If you enjoy the laidback rhythms and relaxed vibes of this kind of music then this is a must. Even if you are a relative stranger to smooth coolness shores then this record has something to offer. I actually really enjoyed it a great deal and there’s clears links to funk, disco and fusion that really appeal to me. Out now!

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