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Boney James is a saxophonist, songwriter and producer hailing from New Rochelle, New York, United States who was born on the 1st of September 1961. He is one of the most successful jazz musicians around, his 14 studio albums having sold over three million copies the world over.
Born James Oppenheim, the young James had discovered the joys of jazz music by a very early age, taking up the clarinet at the tender age of eight before switching to the saxophone by the time he was 10. However, it wasn’t until his family upped sticks from New York to Los Angeles when James was 14 that he started performing live around the jazz clubs of his new home state. As time went on James began to pick up other instruments, and after he’d finished his history degree at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1985 he became a session keyboardist, joining the backing band of R&B legend Morris Day.
While on tour with Day he convinced his paymaster to let him switch from keys to his primary instrument, the sax. After Day agreed, James’ name began to spread about his mastery on the tenor, alto and soprano Sax, alongside his considerable skills on keys and the flute. After leaving Day’s band, his clients included everyone from the Isley Brothers to Teena Marie and Sheena Easton, but it was while he was on tour with Randy Crawford in 1986 that he picked up his stage name. See, all this performing didn’t lead to enormous pay-checks, and James said to a fellow band member that he was running out of food money.His bandmate replied that if he started eating any less "We'll have to start calling you Boney James!".
James took the name to heart and has used it as a stage name ever since. Years passed going from backing band to backing band, but everything would change in the early 90’s, when his playing caught the attention of an engineer and producer called Paul Brown while playing in Bobby Caldwell’s band. Brown was so taken with his playing and the music that he wrote that he negotiated a contract with the independent label Spindletop Records for James and by 1992, James’ first solo album “Trust”, was released. For an independent album released before the internet revolution, it was a hit, one big enough to snag James a major label deal with Warner Bros. Records.
Since then, James has become one of the most respected jazz artists of his generation, consistently releasing great albums, collaborating with everyone under the sun and even having three of his albums go gold. Even a car crash in 2010 that fractured his jaw and shattered two of his teeth couldn’t keep him out of commission for longer than two months. He’s a true artist that has never been anywhere other than the top of his game, and in the highly competitive world of jazz, one that demands the very best out of everyone who performs in it, that’s a very rare thing indeed. Highly recommended.