Bob James

Straight Up

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This record is an unexpected treat. Bob James has had a lucrative career writing and playing crossover jazz/pop. Although he had actually started his career with a straight-ahead trio date for Mercury in 1962 and also led a bizarre avant-garde session for ESP in 1965, his career since 1974 has offered very little of interest to consumers who prefer to hear inventive jazz as opposed to pleasant background music. But for this session, James returned to the roots few knew he had. Playing in an acoustic trio with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade, James contributes five straightforward originals in addition to the standard "Lost April," and interprets tunes by Pat Metheny/Lyle Mays, Horace Silver ("The Jody Grind"), and Denny Zeitlin. While not hinting at all at his usual pop material, James plays quite well, takes plenty of chances, and sounds influenced a bit by Bill Evans. With McBride and Blade contributing consistently stimulating interplay, Bob James has recorded what is certainly the finest jazz album of his career.

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