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Saxophonist Boney James brings 'The Beat'
The three-time Grammy nominee talks history, his name and his new sound
Published Thursday, April 18, 2013
by Michaela L. Duckett

Three-time Grammy nominee Boney James is back with a genre-busting album, “The Beat,” which fuses his R&B/Jazz roots with Latin

Saxophonist Boney James will play at the Knight Theater at Levine Center for the Arts April 21.

rhythm and percussion.

Renowned for his compelling, high-energy concerts, James will be in Charlotte April 21 to perform at the Knight Theater at Levine Center for the Arts.

The Post recently caught up with the Billboard chart-topping saxophonist to talk about his new project. In the following Q&A he discusses everything from how he got his name to how he went from studying history at UCLA to being one of the best-selling instrumental musicians of our time.

Question: How did you get your name?

Boney James: My real name is James Oppenheim… In ’86 I was working with the singer Randy Crawford, who sang “Street Life” with The Crusaders. She was really popular in Scandinavia, and we would spend months over there at a time. And everything cost a fortune over there. One day we were walking down the street and I said to Wayne Linsey, who is now the keyboard player for the “Tonight Show,” …”Wayne, everything costs a fortune so I just won’t eat for the next couple of days.” I was just joking around, and he said, “Man, you’re going to get all skinny and I’ll have to start calling you Boney James or something.” From then on, to mess with me, he called me Boney James. People liked calling me that, and it just stuck.

Q: You have a degree in history from UCLA. What made you decide to pursue a career in music?

BJ:  I decided I was going to pursue a career in music after my first year in college. I realized that music is what I really loved. It was my true passion and that I owed it to myself to try and make a go at it. But I’m the type of person that once I start something I finish it, so I went to school and finished.

Q: Congratulations on the April 9 release of your new album “The Beat.” What can you tell us about this project?

BJ: It looks like it’s going to be a big hit, and I’m really excited about it. I really do feel like it’s the best record I’ve made. It just feels very exciting to me, the music that I wrote for the new record. My collaboration with Raheem DeVaughn (“Maker of Love”) was very exciting and that’s climbing up the charts.

I just feel like I really connected with the music that was inside my head on this one. The record is kind of like a Latin and R&B mash-up. I took some great Latin music and gave it more of a hump. I took some R&B stuff and put a lot of percussion on it.

Q: Speaking of Raheem DeVaughn, is it true that you two met on Twitter?

BJ: Yes, it was a crazy thing. I was working with this song that I thought would be really great for Raheem DeVaughn – one of my favorite singers that I’ve always wanted to work with.  Next thing I know, I have a message on Twitter saying that [he] had started following me. So I sent him a direct message and asked if he’d like to collaborate some time. He said yeah. I sent him the track. He went in the studio and wrote and recorded these lyrics in one night and sent it back. It’s pretty awesome.

Q: You’ve worked with a lot of great people in the industry from Faith Evans and Dave Hollister to Bilal. Is there anyone you haven’t worked with that you hope to collaborate with in the future?

BJ: Anthony Hamilton. He actually sang “Silent Night” on a Christmas album I did a few years ago… We got to work together, but I still think it would be great if we could do something original together. I really enjoyed working with him. I have a lot of respect for him, so he’s still on my list.

I’d like to work with Maxwell. I think he and I could make something special. I met Miguel at an awards show last year, and of course he’s blown up now so I don’t know if I could get him anymore, but I’ll keep trying.

Q: With sales totaling over 3 million records, you are one of the most successful instrumental artists of our time. You’ve won a Soul Train Award and been nominated for three Grammys and the NAACP Image Award. To what do you attribute your success?

BJ: It’s really hard for me to say and be objective about it. All I know is I’m trying to make records that I love, and I work really hard on it. I don’t let people hear it until I’m really in love with it myself. Luckily, there are a lot of people who are feeling it too… I’m giving it my all, and it seems to be paying off.

Q: What is some the best advice you’ve ever received and how has it helped you in your career?

BJ: Somebody told me that when you are in show business, you can kind of feel like you are pedaling through a dark tunnel and you don’t know if you are going to get to the other side. But if you stop pedaling, you are going to stay right there in the middle of the tunnel. But if you keep pedaling, you might actually get out of the other side. So you just have to keep doing it.

Q: What can we expect from your performance in Charlotte on April 21?

BJ: Sometimes people who have not seen me live seem really surprised that it’s as high energy and the audience is as interactive as it is. We definitely like to come out there and make people get up.

On the Net:



Have been to Boney's concerts for several years now. Saw him in Durham this past Saturday and he did not let us down as usual. He's a bad boy!
Posted on April 24, 2013

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