Bob James learned the value of give and take between musicians, along with the fine art of collaboration, from his early experiences on the road with mentor Sarah Vaughan. Later, when he became an artist in his own right, he did more than simply take those lessons to heart -- he built a great part of his storied career on landmark duet recordings with David Sanborn, Earl Klugh, and Fourplay. Remembering what it was like to be young, gifted, and hungry to learn, James not only became an icon to a new generation of contemporary jazz performers, but also personal mentor to one of the genre's most respected young players, saxman Kirk Whalum. After many appearances on each other's solo efforts since the mid-80's, Whalum and James are now on equal terms, Joined at the Hip for a project more spontaneous and soulful than most of their recent output. Keeping that adventurous spontaneity going are the duo's inventive support band of guitarist Jeff Golub, bassist Chris Walker, and drummer Billy Kilson -- all inspired choices neither had previously worked with. The fresh approaches of these new collaborators helps make Joined at the Hip unique from any previous James/Whalum recording. Golub is particularly sharp, easing from rock distortion to funky blues while soloing with all the fiery intensity of his own two solo discs on the no-holds-barred "Out of the Cold." He also adds edgy emotion to the dark tones of "Tell Me Something Nice." Tilson captures the spirit of the project with his crucial input on the playful "Kicking Back."
As James explains it, Tilson sat at his kit and started pounding out a rhythm, which James then noodled over to create the initial framework of the playful "Kicking Back."