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Boney James isn’t slowing down

Boney James
c/o the artist
Boney James

Popular saxophonist Boney James is coming to town. It’s been over thirty years since we were first introduced to Boney and today, 18 albums later, he’s still going strong. He’ll be playing Sony Hall in NYC on Tuesday, November 7 at 8 pm with special guest Lindsey Webster. Tickets and info are available at www.SmoothJazzNewYork.com. We talked to Boney about the show, his busy touring schedule and his latest release Detour.

Interview transcript:

Pat Prescott: This guy has been playing his horn for over 30 years now. It's hard to believe that he has 18 hit albums under his belt. He's coming back to the Tri-State area. Boney James will be performing live at Sony Hall in New York City, Tuesday, November 7 at 8pm along with vocalist Lindsey Webster. And Boney joins us now to talk about it. How are you doing?

Boney James: I am doing great, Pat. How are you?

Wonderful. It was lovely seeing you at Catalina and just about everywhere else with this music, because every time I turn around, there is Boney James. You have been super busy, haven't you?

And I see Pat Prescott in many venues as well, but yes, it's been an incredible year. This has actually been my best year ever for touring. It's pretty amazing after all these years that it's just growing. It's pretty wild.

Now, is this your first New York area show since the pandemic?

No, I think we might've played at Sony Hall last year or the year before. Always glad to be back though. I grew up in New Rochelle, so it's always a little bit of a homecoming for me.

Exactly. But like I said, back-to-back concert bookings really all over the place over this last year or so. Then the release of your new album called Detour. It's been a pretty good year for you. And with Detour, the follow up to Solid, which was your highest charting release ever at the time, making it to the Top 10 on the pop charts. Not bad for a little guy from Westchester, huh?

Yeah, little old me. That was a very exciting day when I saw the record next to Lady Gaga and Harry Styles. It's like, how could that possibly happen? But it's a beautiful thing. And as you said, we're really busy. We're actually flying to New York from Mexico and then heading out on a bus tour of the whole East Coast. So there are lots of shows coming up.

I think it's really awesome and the show is tight as always. The record is getting a lot of attention right now. I think you named it Detour because of that unexpected two-year hiatus that we were all forced to take back in 2020. Is that correct?

Some of the music I thought was taking left turns and the word Detour popped into my head. Then, of course, I realized that that's so appropriate because we all have been on this major detour for the last few years. But as I say on stage, the thing about a detour is you still get where you're going. You just see some different stuff along the way.

I know another detour that you took kind of relates to the way you recorded that record. Like many of us you kind of found yourself working from home on this one. What was that like doing a record in your home studio?

Honestly, I've been working out here in the backyard for the last few records and people come over every now and then. It's not like I'm completely solitary and when I cut the drums or if I'm doing a big horn section, I will go around the corner to Sunset Sound, which is a venerable studio. But for the most part, I've been working at home for quite some time. I love it.

I'm sure you do because it's got to make it much easier to collaborate with a lot more people because of the flexibility that we have with the way we can do things.

It's amazing. You can do a whole record virtually. Lalah Hathaway is on the new record and actually this is one of the first times I've actually been in the room with a singer when we were cutting it because she lives in LA. She came over to my house into my backyard studio and we did that track together, the song “Coastin’.”

If I told you 30 years ago, back when we first met, that today people would still be buying your records and it'd just be selling out venues all over the place, would you have believed it?

Honestly, I thought my mother was gonna be the only person that bought that first record, so the whole career has just been crazy to me. But this was always my ambition, just to be one of those artists that could stick around for 30 years. And here we are, it's 32 years already, so it doesn't seem to be slowing down. I couldn't be happier.

Along the way, you've made some incredible friends and a lot of them are singers. You've had some tremendous collaborations with singers. I know that Lindsey Webster is going to be opening up for you on this New York show. Boy, what a talent, this girl. I'll never forget the first time I saw her. I said, what a cute little girl. And she opened her mouth and I was like, oh my goodness.

Yes, she's got a very soulful voice and she always puts on a great show. I'm excited to be sharing the stage with her.

I know the work is going to continue for you beyond this period right now, because you have to work all the way until the end of the year.

That's going to be great because we're going to do this Shake It Up reunion show that we've done a couple of times at sea on The Smooth Jazz Cruise. Rick and I have worked together so many times over the years and made a whole record together back in the day, so we're going to go try and revisit as many of our collaborations as we can.

That saxophone and trumpet thing is a really nice combo. You enjoy doing that, don't you?

I do, particularly with Rick Braun, because ever since we met 30 some odd years ago, we've always just had a real musical affinity for each other. We can complete each other's sentences in a way that you don't always get with other cats. It's a pretty special sound.

Coming back home to New York has got to mean a lot to you and, and to be able to get a chance to see some of those fans because they are great fans here in the Tri-State area. That’s for sure.

That's for sure. Thank you, Pat, for helping build that all up back in the day.

Yes, we did kind of do some things back in the day, didn't we?

Yes, we did.

This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.


Pat Prescott is a native of Hampton Virginia and a graduate of Northwestern University. After 5 years teaching middle school, she started her radio career in New Orleans, Louisiana at WYLD-FM. After a brief stint at New Orleans legendary rock station WNOE, she moved to New York to host the midday show at former heritage jazz station WRVR. During her 23 years on New York radio, Pat worked at WBLS, WLIB, The National Black News Network and contemporary jazz station CD 101.9.