Boney James: The Honestly Tour 2019
Friday, April 19, 2019 8:00 PM
Akron Civic Theatre

It’s been a full quarter-century since a young saxophonist and composer released his debut recording as a leader, Trust. On September 1, 2017, Boney James released his 16th album, this one titled Honestly. If you sense a direct line between those titles, you’ve already come a long way toward understanding what motivates the four-time GRAMMY nominee and multi-platinum-selling musician.

“I’m fighting the good fight to be my own artist and not be pigeonholed,” says the genre-blurring James. “With a record’s title I always try to find something that will communicate the feeling I get when I listen to it. The feeling I get with this music is a sense of sincerity and intimacy. The word ‘honestly’ really reflects how I aspire to live my life and create my music. One of the great things about music is how powerful it is. It can totally transport people. These are interesting times we are living in and the one thing I can do with the skills that I have is to make music that evokes a feeling and takes people somewhere… to do what I can to try and make the world a more pleasant place.”

Honestly, says James, is quite different sounding than the previous record. “It’s more exposed,” he says of the 10-track collection. “Some of the arrangements are not as dense. A number of the songs have a more buoyant, cheerful, happy quality to them.” James produced the record and co-wrote all but one track, his interpretation of the Johnny Mercer-Hoagy Carmichael classic ‘Skylark.’

Each track on Honestly reflects a different side of James’ musical personality. “Songs like ‘Kicks’ or ‘Up All Night’ are much more boisterous sounding than the last couple of records,” he says. “Then there’s ‘Skylark,’ a song that I have always loved…a standard which I’ve never recorded before. The track Honestly (and first Urban Adult single) featuring Avery*Sunshine is straight up R&B.” Regarding Avery, James says, “I heard her at a festival, we were both playing and then I heard her #1 single ‘Call My Name’ on the radio. I was instantly a fan and just waiting for the right song for us to collaborate.”

By the time he entered his teens, James was gigging with bands, and he turned pro at 19. He apprenticed as a sideman for artists like Morris Day and the Isley Brothers, picking up pointers on how to present himself onstage and off, and didn’t cut his first album under his own name until he was 30. The independently released Trust led immediately to a major label deal and a string of increasingly successful recordings and live dates.

Over the years, James has racked up sales of more than three million records, four RIAA gold albums, four GRAMMY nominations, a Soul Train Award, nominations for two NAACP Image Awards and 10 CDs atop Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Albums chart. In 2009, Billboard named him one of the Top 3 Contemporary Jazz Artists Of The Decade along with Kenny G and Norah Jones.

With Honestly, as with futuresoul and the GRAMMY-nominated The Beat before it, Boney James is making some of the most stellar, wholly realized music of his career. “I’ve just grown up, personally and musically,” he says. “I’m a lot calmer now when I approach making music and have more confidence. I’m a “give-110 percent” kind of person and I’m enjoying the process more now. I think that comes out in the music. Maybe that’s why this new record is so much fun to listen to. There are parts on the record that still make me smile.”