By Herb Boyd | Published March 2022
Pianist/composer Bob James and his trio waste no time presenting his popular credentials with “Angela,” and from here across the tracks, so to speak, to “Westchester Lady,” it’s smooth elegant sailing for the music veteran. An almost uninterrupted mood of easy listening pervades Feel Like Making Live! as James and bassist Michael Palazzolo and drummer Billy Kilson give fresh turns to several tunes from the keyboardist’s standard repertoire. “Feel Like Makin’ Love” is at the center of these reflections — from which the album’s title is derived — and it brings back memories even if devoid of Roberta Flack’s incomparable voice or David McMurray’s flute in a subsequent date a decade ago.
Pared down, too, is “Mister Magic,” and though Grover Washington Jr.’s memorable soprano saxophone is indelibly linked to the song, James recasts that remarkable recording that virtually made him the poster boy of smooth jazz. Half the tracks are James’ originals, but he is an adept arranger, with or without strings, and what he does on Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” Petula Clark’s “Downtown” and Errol Garner’s “Misty” are delightful testaments to this skill.
There was a time in the mid-’70s when James’ music seemed to be everywhere; on the radio, television, films and even sampled in hip-hop. None of the residue of those days is missing from this latest iteration. What is evident from start to finish is that James still has the chops and the impulses to apply a bright veneer to a few ageless evergreens, some of them his own.
Feel Like Making Live!: Angela; Rocket Man; Maputo; Topside; Misty; Avalabop; Nautilus; Downtown; Niles A Head; Feel Like Makin’ Love/Nightcrawler; Submarine; Mister Magic; Westchester Lady. (77:00)
Personnel: Bob James, piano and keyboards; Michael Palazzolo, bass; Billy Kilson, drums.
Ordering Info: evosound.com