A solid saxophonist whose style falls on the R&B-ish and pop side of jazz, Boney James (who is heavily influenced by Grover Washington, Jr.) is a consistent best-seller who can always be relied upon to put on a colorful live show. Born James Oppenheim, he grew up in New Rochelle, NY. The future Boney James studied clarinet when he was eight, switching to saxophone two years later. When he was 15, his family moved to Los Angeles. James was soon playing in a fusion band (Line One) which was strong enough to open for Flora Purim and the Yellowjackets. After a year attending U.C. Berkeley, he transferred to U.C.L.A. so he could continue playing with the band. He earned a degree in history but became a full-time musician after graduation, doubling on keyboards. James went on the road as a keyboardist with Morris Day in 1985 and eventually convinced Day that he should be playing saxophone instead. He spent four years with Day and became in-demand for guest spots on tenor, alto, soprano, and flute, playing with Randy Crawford, Sheena Easton, the Isley Brothers, Bobby Caldwell, and others. He picked up his nickname while on tour with Crawford. After mentioning to a keyboardist that he was running out of food money, the musician replied that if he ate any less, he would have to be called Boney James. The popular saxophonist made his debut as a leader with Trust in 1992 (Spindletop) and then in 1994 was signed by Warner Bros., where he recorded dates including Backbone, Seduction, Boney's Funky Christmas, Sweet Thing, Shake It Up, Ride, and Pure. In 2006, Boney made the move to Concord Records and released Shine. Send One Your Love followed in 2009
Boney James, (born James Oppenheim, September 1, 1961 in Lowell, Massachusetts) is a saxophonist who popularized urban jazz (an updated version of contemporary jazz that contains elements of R&B and hip-hop).
Boney James is a two-time Grammy Award nominee (for Best Pop Instrumental Album) and a Soul Train Award winner. In 2001 he was also honored with an NAACP Image Award nomination for Best Jazz Album. He has accumulated four RIAA certified Gold records. His current and twelfth CD, Send One Your Love, spent 8 consecutive weeks at #1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz charts and debuted at #21 on the R&B chart. James produced the CD as well as wrote 4 of the songs.
James has recorded arrangements of classic soul songs, such as Chaka Khan's "Sweet Thing," Stevie Wonder's "Creepin'" and Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine". Some James originals include "The Total Experience", "Metropolis," "After the Rain", and "Here She Comes."
In addition, he collaborated with trumpeter Rick Braun on an album called Shake it Up. Their duets include "Grazin' in the Grass," which had been previously performed by the Friends of Distinction and Hugh Masekela. Other James collaborations include Faith Evans, George Benson, Dwele, Esthero, Philip Bailey, Anthony Hamilton, Jaheim and Angie Stone.
Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, he took up the clarinet at the age of eight and switched to sax when he was 10. Boney spent his early teen years in New Rochelle, New York and became a Motown fan, which contributed to his "musical influence and soulful R&B style.". He was also influenced by popular saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr.. When James was 15 his family moved to Los Angeles, where he joined a fusion band which had some success opening for acts like Flora Purim and the Yellowjackets. Another member of this early band was John Shanks, now a successful pop producer.. (Kelly Clarkson, Sheryl Crow)
He received a history degree from UCLA, but began playing music full-time after graduation. He took up the keyboards and in 1985 joined Morris ("What Time Is It?") Day's band for four years. His R&B influence was further strengthened by seven years of touring and sessions as a sideman with artists like Day, the Isley Brothers, Bobby Caldwell, Randy Crawford, Teena Marie and many others. It was on the road with Crawford that he earned his now-famous moniker; his per diem as a touring musician barely kept him fed, and a bandmate notoriously commented of his dwindling physique, "At this rate we'll have to start calling you Boney James!"
In the early 90's, after joining Bobby Caldwell's band, he caught the attention of the engineer/mixer & producer Paul Brown. In 1992 he released his debut album as a leader, Trust, on the indy Spindletop Records and was signed by the Warner Brothers label in 1994. Following a string of chart topping albums, in 2006 James moved to Concord Records and with the release of Shine achieved his career highest Billboard chart position (#44 on the Top 200).
In 2008, James recorded a song with American Idol finalist Syesha Mercado, entitled "Gonna Get It," which was co-written by James and Rahsaan Patterson. It is currently available exclusively in the iTunes Music Store.
He is married to actress/director Lily Mariye of television's "ER."
Boney's Funky Christmas (1996)
Sweet Thing/It's All Good (1998)
Body Language (1999)
Shake It Up w/Rick Braun (2000)
Christmas Present (2007)
Send One Your Love (2009)