Bob James

Three

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By Three, Bob James -- the pianist, composer, and arranger -- was deep into jazz-funk. The five tracks here reflect his obsession with hard, danceable grooves that take as much from the soul-jazz book as they do his years with CTI. Using many of the same session players he bonded with at his former label -- including Eric Gale, Hugh McCracken, Hubert Laws, Will Lee, and Harvey Mason -- and a large host of stellar horn players (among them Lew Soloff and Jon Faddis), James offers five selections of simple but fun jazz-pop. On "One Mint Julep," Grover Washington's tenor goes head to head with James' Rhodes and synths. "Women of Ireland" is a solid take on the ballad with fine guitar work from Gale as a contrast to the watershed of strings. The laid-back, space groove contains another killer solo by Washington, while "Westchester Lady" borders on disco without ever falling headlong into it. The closer, "Jamaica Farewell," is another shimmering ballad with a whistle solo by Washington playing the melody. The faux-reggae rhythm and slippery bassline are the only things that keep it from slipping into a lightweight ether. Although the sound here is somewhat dated, the feel is timeless.

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