Bob James,
Angels of Shanghai
(Tappan Zee, 2007)

Bob James has released many CDs over the years. His style of smooth jazz is known, even if you don't recognize his name. If you have ever heard the theme to the old television show Taxi, then you have heard Bob's work. Bob's 2007 CD Angels of Shanghai takes his talent in a new direction as it merges Western jazz with traditional Chinese to create some beautiful music.

"Onara" (from "Daejangkeum") is very reminiscent of what Yanni might do with a Chinese melody mixed with his orchestra. The track has an overall epic feel to it. At times the melody is somewhat ethereal. At times, there is a sense of power as metered percussion pounds out a slow beat. This track is one of the better ones found on the CD, but is a good representation of the music presented here.

"Endless Time" is the one song on the CD where you can enjoy the vocals of Nathan East (who co-wrote this track with James). "Girl, we were never meant to be. Neither one of us are free. A world apart. ... For now, we'll live in endless time." There is a female backup vocalist who complements East's singing. The song is sad, yet very pretty. It is a nice addition to the CD.

"Angela with Purple Bamboo" is a variation on the theme from Taxi, which many consider James' signature composition. The Angels of Shanghai version puts an Asian twist on to the piece. The Asian instruments add a unique quality that you might have a hard time imagining without hearing it first hand. However, the core of the Western original is still recognizable.

James plays piano and synthesizers. A large number of other musicians joined him for the creation of Angels of Shanghai, including Jack Lee (guitars), Nathan East (bass, vocals on one track), Harvey Mason (drums/percussion), Ma Jia Jun, Liu Zhen and Karen Han (er-hu, a two-string violin), Li Li (pipa, think of a lute), Xie Tao (guzheng, merge a harp with a zither), Zhao Qui and Lu Cong (dizi, bamboo flutes).

Nine of the 11 tracks are Bob James originals. The jazz found on Angels of Shanghai is a smooth blend of standard Western jazz with Chinese elements. In many respects, the music might be what would happen if you took a Chinese version of the Japanese-flavored jazz band Hiroshima and let Yanni lead it. At the very least, the music can be categorized in the same genres as those two.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Wil Owen

27 October 2007

what's new